Beach volleyball team faces against top three universities in Surf and Turf Invitational

Ali Denney (21) and Lina Bernier (3) cheer after scoring a point against FSU in the Surf and Turf Invitational, Saturday, March 30. Photo by Jorge Coll/PantherNOW

Written by Zoe Chin/Sports Director

The FIU beach volleyball team (11-8) hosted the seventh annual ‘FIU Surf and Turf Invitational’ on South Beach on Friday, March 29 and Saturday, March 30.

The Panthers took on some of the best beach volleyball teams in the country, such as Louisiana State University (17-5), Florida State University (17-5) and the University of California, Los Angeles (21-0).

In day one of the invitational, the Panthers took on Stetson University (17-8), Grand Canyon University (14-7) and LSU.

The Panthers beat American Volleyball Coaches Association no. 10 ranked Stetson in 3-2 matches and won the dual. This is the second time that FIU met Stetson in a dual and took the win. Followed by a win against AVCA no. 16 Grand Canyon in 3-2 matches and putting another dual in their pocket.

But, the AVCA no. 8 ranked Panthers’ streak came to an end in the dual against AVCA ranked no. 4 LSU. The Tigers took the dual with 4-1 matches against the Panthers. The one match win came from senior Dorina Klinger and freshman Ronja Klinger. The sisters beat LSU in their match, taking both sets (21-19 and 21-18).

The Panthers ended day one of the invitational with a 2-1 record.

“We’re doing really well. We’ve won the game we were supposed to win” said coach Rita Buck-Crockett. “Now, it’s time to upset a few teams.”

In the second day of the invitational, the Panthers faced Tulane University (15-12), FSU, and UCLA. Two of the biggest competitors of the day were AVCA no. 3 ranked FSU and AVCA no. 1 ranked UCLA.

FIU had competed against UCLA during the ‘East Meets West Invitational’ at UCLA where the Panthers lost to the Bruins in 1-4 matches.

In the first dual of day two of the invitational, the Panthers’ first competitor was Tulane. FIU started off strong, beating the Pelicans in all five matches and winning the dual.

Margherita Bianchin serving the ball in the match against Tulane. Bianchin and her partner, Federica Frasca, won their match against the Pelicans. Photo by Jorge Coll/PantherNOW.

The final match win came from senior Margherita Bianchin and junior Federica Frasca. The duo started off their dual strong, winning the first set (21-19), but lost in the second set (14-21). Pushed to the second set, the first team to reach 15-points would win the match. Bianchin and Frasca dominated in the third set (15-11), getting the fifth match win in the dual.

“We usually play better, but still we pulled out the ‘W’,” said Bianchin. “But, I’m happy for the rest of the team because they did really well.”

The team is experimenting with new duos because of a few injuries, according to Bianchin and Buck-Crockett. These new pairs would be tested going into the upcoming matches against FSU and UCLA.

Despite losing the dual against FSU, the Panthers to the best of their abilities. The dual ended 3-2, in favor of FSU, but FIU battled hard for the win.

Bianchin and Frasca won their match against the Seminoles in both sets (21-18, 21-19). The Klinger sisters also took the win against FSU in both sets (21-17, 21-19). But, after losing to FSU in two matches, the Panthers were tied 2-2 in matches.

All eyes were on junior Lina Bernier and red-shirt senior Erika Zembyla. The duo won the first set (13-21), but then lost the second set (21-19). In the battle for the third set, Bernier and Zembyla kept up with FSU, staying neck-and-neck with the scoring. FSU took the third set in the end with a score of 15-12.

The Panthers will take on FSU again at the ‘FSU Invitational’ on Friday, April 5.

The last match of the invitational featured FIU versus UCLA.

UCLA quickly took down the Panthers in all five matches with the Panthers barely keeping up with the Bruins. Bianchin and Frasca lost the first set of their match against UCLA, but made a comeback in the second set, almost getting the win. But, the duo fell short (24-22).

Denney and Zembyla managed to push UCLA to a third set, after winning the second set (20-22). Despite a hard battle to get at least one match point for the Panthers, the junior-senior pair kept a tied game against the Bruins, but fell short in the end (15-11).

“There’s no easy teams,” said Buck-Crockett. “We’re training. We’re in the middle of the season and trying to maintain our physical [health], get rest. We can only do so much.”

Feature image by Jorge Coll/PantherNOW.