Stefano Rivera/ Contributing Writer
The women’s beach volleyball team has increased its win total each season since its startup in 2013. Beginning with only five wins in their first season, to reaching 20 last season, the Panthers are a model of a rising program.
Junior, Marina Boulanger, has had a similar trend throughout her years competing for the program. Before FIU, Boulanger attended Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, California, where she played volleyball all four years. She was also part of the USA U19 National Team.
During her freshman campaign for the Panthers in 2014, Boulanger posted a record of 9-8, just above .500. She also competed at the No. 1 spot in the AVCA National Championships in Mobile, Alabama.
In 2015, her record (19-8) improved drastically, increasing her win total by 10, while finishing with the same amount of loses. Due to many of the seniors that developed to be the heart of the team, Boulanger only competed in the No. 3, 4 and 5 positions. However, in the 2015 AVCA National Championships, then senior, Darija Sataric and Boulanger defeated Florida State University’s No. 3 duo.
“My sophomore year, I took everything that I learned from my freshman year and tried to really implement it into my game, that’s probably why my game has doubled in wins,” said Boulanger, “this year I plan to do the same thing, just use all the skills that I’ve learned the past years.
She played her best when paired with graduate student, Tina Toghiyani, almost going unbeaten with a 9-1 record.
“We are very loud and have very big hearts for the game,” Boulanger said. “I think that together we care so much that our love for the game just really gave us that will to win and succeed in our games.”
Due to the Panther’s deep roster, Boulanger has only been called to participate in three matches this season, all coming in the FIU Fort Lauderdale Beach Invitational. Paired with junior, Anabela Sataric, she has gone 1-1. Together they dismantled the University of New Orleans 2-0, but dropped a tightly contested, three set match to Louisiana State University 21-19, 18-21 and 13-15.
Against Jacksonville University and paired with graduate student, Martyna Gluchowicz, Boulanger swept the competition 2-0 with a dominant win. Although the sample size, three games, has been small at the start of this season, she features to be a vital aspect of the team moving forward.
The Panthers are currently ranked No. 10 in the AVCA Collegiate Beach Poll, but have fallen the past two weeks. Boulanger knows the road to the top will not be easy, but a process that will require patience.
“[My goals are] being first in the East coast, getting to Nationals, everything is a step process, and then winning Nationals,” said Boulanger, “personally, being the best player that I can be, helping my teammates and winning my games.”
Boulanger, along with the Panthers, will be in action this weekend, Friday, March 25, and Saturday, March 26, as she looks to improve her record at the Stetson Invitational.