Gulf Shores, AL -- At Thursday’s practice Florida State sand volleyball head coach Danalee Corso said great performances from her top two pairs on the first day of the Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship would be key to provide the Seminoles with momentum heading into Saturday’s team championship.
The Garnet and Gold got just that out of the tandems of junior Aurora Newgard and sophomore Brittany Tiegs, and senior Jekaterina Stepanova and freshman Jace Pardon on Friday on the beaches of Gulf Shores, Ala.
The Noles went a perfect 6-0 and won a trio of three-set battles during pool play of the 16-team pairs portion of the weekend. Stepanova and Pardon captured the No. 3 seed in Sunday’s pairs championship by winning Pool D. Tiegs and Newgard grabbed the No. 4 seed by winning Pool A, including capturing the day’s final match, an epic three-setter over Hawaii’s No. 1 tandem of Jane Croson and Ashley Lee.
Most importantly, the exciting and successful first day will give FSU a strong push into the four-team double-elimination team championship that begins Saturday at 11 a.m. CT when first-seed Pepperdine takes on fourth-seed College of Charleston. The second-seeded Seminoles will face third-seed Long Beach State at 12 p.m. CT.
“This will give us momentum, but those two teams will be a little tired,” Corso said. “Thankfully, we are very well conditioned. The goal is to become the first-ever collegiate sand volleyball national champions tomorrow.”
Tiegs and Newgard dropped their first set to of the day to Long Beach State’s Haleigh Hampton and Chelsea Cabrajac, 21-19, before cruising in the next two sets, 21-17, 15-8, to win. The Nole pair then blew past College of Charleston’s Emily Shelton and Kelly Kolich, 21-10, 21-17.
Tiegs and Newgard had been looking to gain revenge against Croson and Lee since the Rainbow Wahine tandem downed the Seminole duo in three sets at the UNF Invitational pairs final on April 1.
Friday’s match was another three-setter. After Tiegs and Newgard handedly grabbed the first set, 21-18, Croson and Lee outlasted the Garnet and Gold pair, 30-28, in set two. Trailing 13-9 in the final set, the FSU tandem dug deep, fought back to snag an emotional 16-14 to keep FSU undefeated on the day.
“That was a phenomenal win,” Tiegs said. “We’d been gunning for them, and they had been gunning for us. We got our revenge and finally beat them. We started off a little slow, but that happens. We definitely picked it up for sure as soon as we got our momentum going. It’s great to go 3-0 in our pool.”
Pardon and Stepanova also had an impressive three-set victory over Hawaii of their own in their second match of the day. After routing UNF’s Dagnija Medina and Emily Strack, 21-10, 21-17, the Seminole pair dropped its first set to the Rainbow Wahine team of Emily Hartong and Elizabeth Stoltzman, 21-19, but rallied to take the second set 21-14. The FSU tandem was down 13-11 in the third set, before scoring four straight points to win the match.
Pardon and Stepanova ended their day with a straight-set 21-14, 21-17 victory over Southern California’s Geena Urango and Sara Shaw.
“Today was amazing,” Corso said. “Brittany and Aurora were spectacular. They’re not the most physical team here, but they have so many tools in their repertoire. They used every one today. They’ve won three of five tournaments this season. To win major events is a skill in itself. They have that. They proved today they are mature players, and so did Jace and Kate today.”
Pepperdine’s top two teams won Pools B and C without dropping a set to grab the first two seeds of Sunday’s pairs tournament.
The Seminole teams will be on opposite ends of the pairs bracket and wouldn’t meet until the finals. The single-elimination pairs tournament begins at 8 a.m. CT on Sunday and the championship match will begin at 1:30 p.m. CT.
Saturday’s team championship final will be at approximately 5 p.m.
Also competing for the Noles on Saturday will be the No. 3 team of senior Mallory Kiley and graduate student Caitlin Haworth, the No. 4 duo of senior Visnja Djurdjevic and freshman Stephanie Pellitteri, and the No. 5 squad of junior Fatma Yildirm and sophomore Jeassica McGregor.
For more information on the Florida State sand volleyball team, follow the Seminoles on Twitter at: @FSU_SVB.
Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships
Pairs Tournament Pool Play
at Gulf Shores, Ala.– April 27, 2012
Tiegs/Newgard (FSU) def. Hampton/Cabrajac (LBSU) – 19-21, 21-17, 15-8
Tiegs/Newgard (FSU) def. Shelton/Kolich (CC) – 21-12, 21-10
Tiegs/Newgard (FSU) def. Croson/Lee (UH) – 21-18, 28-30, 16-14
Stepanova/Pardon (FSU) def. Medina/Strack (UNF) – 21-10, 21-17
Stepanova/Pardon (FSU) def. Hartong/Stoltzman (UH) – 19-21, 21-14, 15-13
Stepanova/Pardon (FSU) def. Urango/Shaw (SC) – 21-14, 21-17