Home turf defended at Surf and Turf Invitational

Stefano Rivera/ Contributing Writer

If there was one thing the No. 10 Florida International University beach volleyball team desperately needed, it was to muster up wins as the regular season concluded.

Coming off the Stetson Invitational, one of the most challenging events in program history in which the team went winless, the Panthers were back at home hosting the fourth annual FIU Surf and Turf Invitational.

The team showed great character as it bounced back in impressive fashion.

“We are a young team. We are going to have some ups and we are going to have some downs,” Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett said, “but this is our home and they wanted to show that it’s our house.”

Day one of the event, Friday, April 1, saw the Panthers play University of South Carolina, Tulane University and Florida Atlantic University, all CCSA opponents.

The Gamecocks of South Carolina gave it their all as they fell to FIU 3-2. The rookie duo of freshman, Dominique Dodd, and junior, Katie Hogan, were the deciding factor of this match.

Competing in the No. 1 slot, they defeated South Carolina’s No. 1 duo 18-21, 22-20, 16-14, all tightly contested sets.

Also chipping in with wins were the No. 2 duo of juniors, Aren Cupp and Anabela Sataric, and the No. 5 duo of redshirt sophomore, Savannah Davis, and sophomore, Natalia Giron.

The team handled Tulane in its next match, winning 4-1.

The Panthers raced to a 4-0 point lead as their No. 2 through No. 5 duos all got the victories and officially clinched the match when the No. 3 duo of graduate student, Martyna Gluchowicz and junior, Marina Boulanger, won. They defeated the Green Wave’s No. 3 duo 21-10, 21-13.

To cap the first day, the Panthers battled instate rival, FAU. In similar fashion to Tulane, the team got off to a hot start and led 3-0, claiming the victory. This three-match win streak was the longest for the Panthers all season.

“We won against all the teams that our in our region and that’s important and very crucial for us. It’s a rebuilding year for us, and we are still one of the best teams in the Southeast region”, Buck-Crockett said.

On Day two of the Surf and Turf Invite on Saturday, April 2, the Panthers were faced with a tough test: No. 2 and defending national champions, University of Southern California.

Although the Panthers were fresh off a successful start to the event the day before, the Trojans made quick work of them, winning in straight sets, 5-0.

The final match of the weekend came against conference foe and No. 8, Georgia State University. Before the match, FIU recognized seven student athletes as they took the home court for the final time.

Redshirt sophomore, Emily Podschweit, graduate student, Anne Marie Taylor, senior, Gloria Levorin, graduate student, Tina Toghiyani, Davis, Cupp and Gluchowicz were all honored.

Previously, on March 12, in the Tiger Sand Challenge in Baton Rouge, GSU defeated FIU 4-1; however, things would be different this time around.

The No. 1 duo of Gluchowicz and Boulanger, the No. 4 duo of Cupp and Toghiyani and the No. 5 duo of Davis and Giron swept their competition and gave the Panthers the victory within the first three matches.

The team won 3-2 and rushed the court in excitement as it defeated its first ranked opponent of the season.

“This team all loves each other, they are sisters,” Buck-Crockett said, ”It doesn’t matter who’s playing or who’s not playing, it’s still one heartbeat.”

To finish the regular season, the team will travel to Siesta Key, Florida, to compete in the Fiesta on Siesta Key. On Saturday, April 9, the Panthers will play against Texas Christian University and Grand Canyon University.

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