Stefano Rivera/ Contributing Writer
One of the many goals for the University beach volleyball team this season was to be crowned the first ever Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) champions.
After going 6-1 in their final seven games, the No. 10 ranked Panthers rode a wave of momentum into the CCSA Tournament.
On the first day of the tournament, Friday, April 22, the team had its eyes set on No. 9 Georgia State University and Tulane University. These two matches were pool play.
The GSU Panthers have been a familiar foe for the team, splitting the first to matchups of the season.
After dropping the first match, the FIU Panthers promptly responded with two wins of their own to take a 2-1 lead. The No. 5 duo of redshirt sophomore, Savannah Davis, and sophomore, Natalia Giron, put the team on the board with their commanding victory.
Shortly after, the No. 4 duo of graduate student, Tina Toghiyani, and junior, Aren Cupp, claimed another victory, putting the Panthers ahead.
The team then lost the fourth match of the contest, which pushed it to the decisive fifth match. Juniors, Anabela Sataric and Marina Boulanger, one of the Panthers most dominant tandems, fell in a three-set thriller.
The team then faced off against Tulane to wrap up the first day of the tournament.
The Panthers clawed their way to a 3-0 start and defeated the Green Wave 3-2. Once again, the duos of Toghiyani and Cupp and Davis and Giron, propelled the team to its first win in pool play.
Davis and Giron made a move in the program’s record books. With these two victories, the duo moved into third place for the most wins by a pair in a season, 17, only two shy of the record.
On the second day of the tournament, Saturday, April 23, the Panthers had an early wakeup call playing at 9 a.m.
To finish off the third match of pool play, the team faced off against instate rival, Florida Atlantic University.
Once again, the Panthers fell behind early, dropping the first match, however, they rallied back winning three straight matches to take the contest.
The rookie duo of freshman, Dominique Dodd, and junior, Katie Hogan, got its first win of the tournament. The duo of graduate student, Martyna Gluchowicz, and sophomore, Estefanie Bethancourt, and Toghiyani and Cupp, contributed to the winning efforts as well.
The single elimination part of the tournament began during the quarterfinals later on Saturday.
The Panthers battled against unranked University of South Carolina, a team they had previously beaten in the regular season and held a 3-0 overall record against. Although the Panthers came off two straight wins in pool play, they were given the upset of the season.
The Gamecocks defeated the Panthers 4-1, ending their season. The only duo to claim a victory in the contest was Toghiyani and Cupp. Together, they finished the regular season undefeated (7-0).
Toghiyani finished her career on top of the program’s record books for most wins all-time (67), and Cupp finished fourth with 50.
The Panthers finished the 2016 season 13-9, seven wins shy of matching last year’s win total.