Stefano Rivera/ Contributing Writer
If there was a perfect way to describe how the beach volleyball team’s season has gone so far that would be a rollercoaster ride.
Granted anything the Panthers did this year would have been tough to match the AVCA semi-finalist squad from a year ago, but the ups and downs have been far too common. Are the Panthers riding the rollercoaster up at the right time?
After losing six seniors from last year’s team, my expectations for this season were not extremely high. However, by still maintaining a strong coaching staff, I knew the Panthers could make some surprises here and there.
The Panthers got off to a 5-2 mark after the first two events of the season. A good start, but nothing to brag about. I thought to myself after these first seven games, “Is the team this good or is it just taking advantage of its soft schedule?”
Unfortunately, it was the latter. When the Stetson Beach Invitational came along in late March, the Panthers hit their downward spiral. Now, all these games were against top-ten teams, but the Panthers were also ranked inside the top-ten, so they should’ve had a decent shot, right? Sadly, no.
Losing 0-5 to No. 4 University of California at Los Angeles, 1-4 to No. 2 Florida State University, 2-3 to No. 9 Stetson University and 1-4 to No. 5 University of Hawaii was the result of that dreadful event.
At this point, the players on the team had two options: keep their heads down and give up on the season or forget about the results and learn from their mistakes.
The Panthers chose to learn from their mistakes and they continued where they left off. The season’s turning point was at their final home event: the FIU Surf and Turf Invitational. The team I saw compete here did not look like a team that got swept just a week before in Stetson.
Winning four of the five matches that weekend, the Panther’s confidence rose at a staggeringly high rate. The team kept climbing to the top of the hill as the regular season ended, going 6-1 down the stretch.
The Panthers’ work isn’t done though. They still need to compete in the first ever CCSA Conference Tournament from Friday, April 22, to Sunday, April 24.
The most important factor in this tournament will be the Panther’s best duo: redshirt sophomore, Savannah Davis, and sophomore, Natalia Giron. Together, they have the most wins of any pair this season and chemistry like none other.
The most surprising pair of the season has to be freshman, Dominique Dodd, and junior, Katie Hogan. It’s not like their record is as spectacular as Davis and Giron’s, but it’s the fact they are both rookies.
They have gained the trust and confidence from Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett. I think that’s due to the fact that they are also her indoor volleyball players. Regardless, they too will be keys for the team’s success in the postseason.
The Panthers are on the rise now, but will they continue to climb or fall back down the hill?