BY SYDNEY RHODES
Last weekend the UT’s Women’s Beach Volleyball team battled in the AVCA Small College Championships in Tavares, Florida. On Saturday they were able to win all three duals against Florida Southern, Lincoln Memorial and Saint Leo. They returned on Sunday to face Eckerd and Spring Hill College. The team recorded their only two losses this weekend on Sunday.
In the first duel against Florida Southern, freshman Melissa Elias and her partner Sorrel Houghton, a freshman also, began the tournament winning their match in two sets. Nylah Demps and Taylor George, both freshman, played the next match against FSU and also won both sets 21-18 in the first and 21-18 again in the second. Overall, the five teams of two won every game against the Mocs and went undefeated 5-0 to win their first dual of the day.
“I believe the highlight of the tournament was sweeping our rivals Florida Southern 5-0. That was definitely a great feeling,” said Demps.
Following the game, the five teams advanced to play face Lincoln Memorial. Each partnership played the opponent in two sets to determine the score. Unfortunately, the only team that wasn’t able to walk away with a win were partners, Katie McKiel and Gabbi Pacatte, a sophomore and junior. But, the Spartans were still able to finish the dual tallying a score of four games to one.
As for the last duel of the day against Saint Leo, the Spartans won the match four games to one again. This time the game was a bit more difficult, resulting in each team of two playing to the third set to advance. McKiel and Pacatte were able to return to the court and claim their win with the first set in 25-23, the second in 15-21, and swept the third in 15-5.
“Those wins were important confidence builders that showed the girls they have continued to improve over the course of the season,” said head coach Jeff Lamm.
“Winning the three matches gave us a lot of confidence and great energy coming into the upcoming matches,” added Demps. “They helped us realize that we are capable of so many great things.”
On Sunday, the Spartans returned to the tournament confident they would finish the tournament well. In the first duel against Eckerd college the women played a tough game resulting in one game won and four lost. Juniors Alexandra Misca and Sarah Moore were the only team of two to win in a competitive three games, 14-21, 21-19, and won the final set in 15-9.
“The highlight of this tournament has been the overall performance of the teams, and they say they have supported each other throughout the event,” said Coach Lamm.
To finish the tournament, Tampa played a tough match against Spring Hill College, unfortunately losing with a close score of two games to three. Teams, Houghton and Elias, and Misca and Moore were able to beat the opposing partners. Houghton and Elias played a close game, winning the match in the third set 15-12.
All in all, UT’s beach volleyball placed fourth at the Small College Beach Championships. The women were undefeated the first day of the tournament and battled through Sunday to earn the ranking.
“We play two more matches on Tuesday and Wednesday. We are hoping to go 2-0 to close out the season. During the tournament we have learned so much on and off the court and I believe that knowledge will be beneficial for our last upcoming matches”, said Demps.
Next, the Spartans will play two matches at home on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 10 and 11, to close the first season of Women’s Beach Volleyball in the history of UT. The women will face Florida Southern once again on Tuesday and Webber International on Wednesday, whom they first played this season winning three games to two.
“I feel this has been a great start for the new program and I can’t wait where the team and sport grows in the future,” said Coach Lamm.
Sydney Rhodes can be reached at email@example.com