In only the fourth year of its program’s existence, the Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) Women Volleyball Buccaneers won the 2022 National Championship. Now, after being ranked #1 in the nation every week during the 2023 campaign, the FSW Lady Bucs begin their quest to repeat as National Champions this weekend when they host the Florida College System Activities Association (FCSAA) State Championship at Suncoast Credit Union Arena (SCUA) on the FSW Fort Myers campus on Friday & Saturday, November 3 & 4. If FSW finishes as State champion or runner-up, they play for the District title against other state champions on Sunday, November 5, again at SCUA.
The Lady Bucs, who went 24 & 1 in 2023 and won their fourth straight Citrus Conference Championship at 13 & 1, first play on Friday, November 3, at 4 p.m. They take on the winner of that morning's matchup between #15-ranked Eastern Florida State College and #17 Polk State College. FSW took on each of those schools twice in 2023, during Citrus League play. The Lady Bucs swept Eastern Florida at SCUA in mid-September then won again at Eastern in mid-October by 3 sets to one. Polk State gave the Bucs all they could handle twice, losing to them at SCUA in September 3 sets to 1, then at Polk State in October, falling to FSW in a thrilling 3 sets to 2 match, with FSW winning the climatic 5th set 15 to 13.
If FSW defeats Eastern Florida or Polk State, they will advance to the State Championship Match on Saturday, November 4, at the SCUA at 3 p.m. If they fall short on Friday, they will play in the Consolation Match Saturday at Noon. Should FSW make it to the Championship game, they will most likely take on #3-ranked Miami Dade College in the next chapter of their intense rivalry. Before the FSW volleyball program came into existence, Miami Dade was the 800-pound gorilla of Junior College Women Volleyball, having won ten National Championships! FSW and Miami Dade not only played each other for the 2022 Florida State Championship, but they both then advanced to the 2022 National Championship game, 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.
The FSW mastermind is head coach Thais Baziquetto-Allen, who began the program in 2019 and quickly rose to the ranks of a Junior College volleyball coaching superstar, with an incredible career mark of 112 & 24 for an outstanding .824-win percentage. The geographic recruiting realm for the smart, successfuland stylish Coach Thais is apparently Planet Earth, as her 14-player squad features 12 overseas competitors, with four from Italy, three hailing from Brazil, and the remainder from Argentina, Peru, Portugal, Serbia and Slovakia, with two Floridians rounding out the roster.
Two All-American candidates headline the FSW Lady Bucs: Outside Hitter Alondra Alarcon and Setter Roberta Purashaj. Alarcon earned the October 18 National Player of the Week Award, when FSW
coincidently defeated both Eastern Florida and Polk State, when she registered a combined 42 kills and 33 digs. Purashaj on October 24 received her fourth 2023 FCSAA Setter of the Week Award – and the seventh of her incredible career. She ranks in the top five nationally with 10.76 assists per set and she quarterbacks FSW to the second-best hitting percentage in the country at .311. Perhaps the most underrated player on the tremendously-talented Lady Bucs squad in Middle Blocker Izzy Collier from Jacksonville, as the 6’4” Collier simply dominates the center of the court at the net.
To continue their successful run, the Lady Bucs must overcome a bit of the injury bug. Anica Bobic, the dynamic 6’4” Outside Hitter who can totally dominate a match, broke her foot and is out for the season. Libero Clara Maidantchik is battling an on-going leg injury, though FSW expects her to play thisweekend. When she misses time, however, Anna Marzella steps into the breach with no dropoff.
If FSW makes Saturday’s State Championship matchup, both they and their opponent qualify for the next day’s District Championship at SCUA at Noon, with the winner receiving the automatic bid to theNational Championship Tournament. If they falter on Saturday, they play in the District Consolation Match at 3 p.m., with the possibility of that winner receiving an At-Large Bid to the National
Championship. SCUA is on the FSW Fort Myers Campus at 13351 FSW Parkway, across the parking lot from the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall; tickets begin at $5 Remember, “The Bucs Stop Here” at the FCSAA State Tournament November 3 through 5!