A new staff brings new beginnings for beach volleyball

Graduate student Lucie Pokorna hitting the ball back over the net. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Adrian Benitez | Contributing Writer

The FIU beach volleyball team is traveling to Jacksonville, Florida to open up their season at the Jacksonville Invitational, beginning on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024.

Coming off a 20-17 record in their 2023 campaign, the Panthers’ season came to an end in the NCAA Championships tournament on May 5, 2023. In that matchup, they took a 3-1 loss to the Florida State Seminoles, who were slated at the fourth seed.

Despite their early conclusion to their season, the AVCA awarded FIU with a No. 12 ranking in the end of year poll. Remaining consistent within the rankings, the team enters their 2024 season ranked No. 13 on the AVCA Preseason Poll.

However, this season marks the start of a new era for FIU’s beach volleyball team, as this year marks head coach Terri Del Conte’s first year at the helm. She is the second head coach in program history and previously served as the head coach for the UAB Blazers.

Over her three years with the Blazers, Conte set new program records for total wins in a season. Her guidance led the team to the semifinals of the CUSA Championships for the first time in school history.

Outside of the acquisition of a new head coach, former WNBA player Kelly Raimon also joined the coaching staff as an assistant. This new staff will look to rally a roster with many returning veterans in the upcoming season.

Graduate student Lucie Pokorna returns after she earned CUSA first team and AVCA second team honors in 2023.  Both her and junior Lisa Luini were also named CUSA pair of the month in October.

Besides Pokorna, both senior Giada Bianchi and graduate student Alice Pratesi look to follow up their performances from their previous campaign. Last year, Pratesi led the team in total wins and accumulated 23-total wins over the whole season.

With new coaches at the helm and a host of returning talent, the Panthers look to capitalize on a fresh start in the 2024 season. They open up their new campaign at the Jacksonville Invitational, where they will face off with five other teams.

Coastal Carolina, North Florida, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Jacksonville and Palm Beach Athletic will all participate in the two day tournament. FIU looks to display their new roster and staff in their first match against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.

Beginning a new era of the program, the FIU beach volleyball team is traveling to Jacksonville, Florida to participate in the Jacksonville Invitational, starting on Saturday, Feb. 24.

The first match is set to begin at 10 a.m. at the Payne Sand Volleyball Courts at Dolphin Beach.

Follow Adrian Benitez on X: @ab305FIU

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