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Friday, 10 November 2023 09:48

FSW Volleyball On to The National Championship! Featured

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Lady Bucs Repeat As Florida & District Champs

The Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) Volleyball Lady Buccaneers successfully took their next steps to defend their 2022 National Championship Title when they used their home court advantage to repeat as the Florida State Championship on November 4, then claimed the District Title the following day. In only the fifth year of its program’s existence, the 27 & 1 Lady Bucs seek to become back-to-back National Champions! FSW’s quest to repeat as the Florida State Champion began at Suncoast Credit Union Arena (SCUA) on Friday afternoon, November 3, against the nationally-ranked #16 Polk State College Eagles. Even though the Lady Bucs defeated Polk State twice during the Citrus Conference campaign, the pesky Eagles made FSW work, taking the Bucs to four sets in September, then to the limit in October in a grueling 5-set match, with FSW winning the climatic 5th set 15 to 13.

True to their tight 2023 matches, the squads split the fi rst two sets, with FSW winning 25 to 19 before Polk State evened things in the 2nd by 25 to 21. The 3rd set began just as tight, with the Lady Bucs breaking Polk State’s serve to go up 4 to 3. Immediately after that, Polk State committed two consecutive defensive service infractions, giving FSW a 6 to 3 lead. The Lady Bucs then won the next three serves to increase their lead to 9 to 3 and they never looked back, winning 25 to 15. That dominance continued into the 4th, winning 25 to 13 to take the State semifi nal 3 sets to 1.

Awaiting FSW in the State Championship clash was their main rival, the #3-ranked Miami Dade Sharks. Before FSW volleyball came into existence, Miami Dade was the 800-pound gorilla of Junior College Woman’s Volleyball, having won ten National Championships! FSW and Miami Dade not only played each other for the 2022 Florida State Championship, but they both advanced to the 2022 National Championship, with FSW victorious 3 sets to one. Miami Dade dealt the Lady Bucs their only 2023 defeat, besting FSW in SCUA on October 21 in a 5-set thriller, taking the deciding fifth set 16 to 14.

Perhaps with revenge on their minds, the Lady Bucs destroyed Miami Dade in the 1st set 25 to 14. FWS remained red hot to begin the 2nd set, then withstood a furious rally to take set #2 25 to 20. The Sharks would not go quietly, however, taking a 9 to 6 lead in the 3rd set. FSW’s brilliant young coach, Thais Baziquetto-Allen, then made a smart & savvy move by replacing All-American candidate Alondra Alarcon with diminutive Clara Maidantchik and FSW immediately went on a 6 to 0 run to jump out in front 12 to 9. Alarcon then returned to the lineup and FSW steamrolled to a 25 to 15 straight-set victory to repeat as Florida State Champs and advance to Sunday’s District Championship!

The Lady Bucs next took on the South Carolina State Champions, the Spartanburg Methodist Pioneers, for the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Atlantic District Championship. Like the previous day against Miami Dade, FSW jumped out quick and never looked back, dominating a straight sets victory 25 to 15, 25 to 10 and 25 to 15! The much-smaller Pioneers had no answer to FSW’s intimidating 6’4” Middle Blocker Izzy Collier who had 8 Kills and 7 Blocks in limited playing time, as Coach Thais played all 13 of her healthy players.

Lifesavers & Kansas!
Following the Lady Bucs victory, Miami Dade returned to the SCUA court to take on Monroe College, the New York State Champions, for the 2nd Atlantic District National Championship automatic bid in Hutchinson, Kansas, and in the 4th set, a life-&-death drama ensued. With Miami Dade leading 2 sets to 1 and the score tied at 15 to 15, a Monroe player dove to the court. It seemed as though the dive knocked the wind from her, then she quickly dissolved into a cardiac arrest. Due to the incredible response of the FSW, Miami Dade and Monroe training staffs, they quickly resuscitated her, with emergency responders arriving in under ten minutes! She recovered in the hospital so well that the two teams resumed their match on Monday, with Miami Dade winning to join FSW for the National Championship in Hutchinson, meaning a fourth FSW / Miami Dade matchup is a distinct possibility.

Prior to the Championships, the Citrus Conference named fi ve Lady Bucs to its All-Conference Teams, placing Alarcon, Collier, All-American candidate Roberta Purashaj, and Victoria Zibecchi on the 1st Team and Nina Boledovicova on the 2nd. Purashaj, FSW’s career assists leader, is the Citrus Conference Player of the Year, finishing second in the State and fourth nationally with 10.81 assists per set while quarterbacking the Lady Bucs to the nation’s top hitting percentage of .318. After the Championships, Region 8 named Alarcon, Boledovicova and Zibecchi to the All-Tournament Team with Purashaj MVP.

Baziquetto-Allen received the Citrus Conference Coach of the Year Award for the fourth consecutive season! The smooth and stylish Coach Thais, who began the FSW volleyball program in 2019, is a Junior College volleyball coaching superstar, with an incredible career mark of 115 & 24 for an unreal .824-win percentage! Her 14-player squad features 12 over-seas competitors, with four from Italy, three hailing from Brazil, and the remainder from Argentina, Peru, Portugal, Serbia and Slovakia, with two Floridians.

The Lady Bucs travel to Hutchinson to defend their 2022 National Championship from November 15 through 18. After being ranked #1 in the nation every week during the 2023 campaign, FSW will almost certainly enter the tournament as the #1 seed. The Lady Bucs tied their all-time wins record by going 27 & 1, after posting their fourth straight Citrus Conference Championship with a 13 & 1 record. Monitor FSW’s march to back-to-back National Championships at Remember, “The Bucs Stop Here” for the 2023 National Championship!

Gary Mooney

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