FIU women’s beach volleyball falls just short of C-USA title, drops final to FAU

FIU moving up in the tournament after defeating Jacksonville State. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Brian Olmo | Sports Director

FIU women’s beach volleyball rattled off four straight wins in the Conference USA tournament before falling in the finals to the FAU Sandy Owls 3-0 on Saturday, April 29 at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park in Florida.  

The Panthers came in as the No. 1 seed, boasting a 17-15 overall record. FAU was right behind them as the No. 2 seed. Both teams earned a first-round bye. 

Regular season success didn’t translate over immediately for the Panthers as they got off to a rocky start in their title run, falling 3-2 to a UAB Blazers team that had its best season in program history with 18 wins. 

FIU held an early 2-0 lead after sophomore Zuzanna Bielak and graduate Alice Pratesi won on court four and junior Emily Meyer and freshman Kendra Brown on court five.

The Blazers fought back, winning games on courts one and two to even the match, 2-2. 

All eyes were now on court three, where redshirt junior Jessica Ennis and junior Adriana Pereira jumped out to a 4-1 lead for UAB and never looked back. The Panthers would cut the deficit to 13-11, but Pereira delivered a kill on match point to send FIU crashing down to the consolation bracket.

The loss shocked the Panthers, but it wasn’t the end of their season since the tournament is two-game elimination. 

On the tournament’s second day, FIU rebounded with back-to-back sweeps of Jacksonville State and Tulane, 5-0 and 3-0 respectively. 

After exacting revenge on the Blazers with a third sweep in a row, 3-0, the Panthers found themselves pitted against FAU in the final.

Freshman duo Emma Grace Robertson and Ashleigh Adams got the day going for the Sandy Owls with their fifth win of the season over Bielak and Pratesi, 21-17, 21-12. 

The Sandy Owls then kept the momentum going with another win from senior Courtney Moon and sophomore Marketa Svozilova, giving FAU a 2-0 advantage. 

In the end, FIU was unable to mount a comeback, handing FAU its first-ever C-USA title and giving them an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history. 

Despite the loss, the Panthers have qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second time since 2018 as the No. 13 seed and will face No. 4 Florida State on Friday, May 5 at 12 p.m. 

Follow Brian Olmo on Twitter at @Brian_Olmo11 

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