GULF SHORES, Ala. – With the dual tied at 2-2, spectators flocked to the fifth court to watch the match that would determine the winner of the first NCAA Championship semifinal. Freshman Madison Fitzpatrick and sophomore Francesca Goncalves were battling out a third set at No. 5, with a win sending FSU to the finals. The pair was able to close out the victory to give the fourth-seeded Seminoles a 3-2 win over No. 3 Hawaii.
“Madison [Fitzpatrick] really stepped up and she’s been great,” said head coach Brooke Niles. “When we told her, ‘hey, it’s going to come down to this game,’ she got this big smile on her face and she was so excited. She’s just a freshman and she’s just excited to be here, but also, she’s a grinder and that’s firing through her. We’ve had so many people step up in different spots throughout the whole year. I think everybody really feels like they’re part of this team and they’ve helped us get here.”
This is the first time in program history the Seminoles will head into the NCAA Championship match undefeated in the tournament. Their previous best run was in 2016, when the Seminoles fell to USC in the winners bracket semifinal, and then came back to meet them again in the final.
“Every point counts and whether we’re the first team to get a point on the board or the third, or the other team is picking up the slack for us,” said Goncalves. “It’s a team sport and everyone matters just as much as everyone else. It couldn’t be a more beautiful system.”
With 33 wins this season, FSU sets the program record for most wins in a season. The record was first set in 2016 when Niles took the helm and led the Seminoles to a 32-3 record and a runner-up finish in the inaugural NCAA Championship.
Florida State snapped a 32-match win streak for the Rainbow Warriors with Saturday’s victory. Hawaii’s last loss was to FSU earlier in the season, when the Seminoles won 4-1 in their only victory of the East Meets West Challenge.
The 2018 Championship will see a new winner this year, as the two-time defending champions USC lost to No. 1 overall UCLA in the elimination bracket on Saturday afternoon.