GULF SHORES, Ala. – The No. 3-ranked Florida State sand volleyball team’s 2013 season came to a close on Sunday during pairs tournament play at the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship.
FSU’s No. 1 tandem of sophomores Jace Pardon and Sarah Wickstrom won their first round match against UNF’s Anna Budinska and Dagnija Medina, 21-12, 19-21, 15-8, in the 16-team, single-elimination pairs bracket, before falling in the quarterfinals to FIU’s Jessica Mendoza and Maryna Samoday, 21-19, 21-15 on a morning filled with heavy gusts of wind.
“They say the wind is a great equalizer,” Florida State head coach Danalee Corso said. “We usually look forward to the wind, but we came across a team that played better in the wind than us. We have a young team and they did great this season. I’m really proud of them. Hopefully we’ll come back hungry next year.”
It was the second consecutive year that Pardon advanced to the quarterfinals. The Manhattan Beach, Calif., native made the semifinals with former Nole Kate Stepanova last season.
On Saturday night, Pardon and Wickstrom were both honored as 2013 AVCA All-Americans. The pair finished the season with a 14-5 record together as FSU’s No. 1 pair. Overall, Pardon tallied an impressive 28-12 mark this year, while Wickstrom finished at 28-7.
The pair will form the backbone of FSU’s team next year along with 2012 All-American Aurora Davis and the Noles’ No. 2 pair of sophomore Melanie Pavels and freshman Julie Brown.
Pavels and Brown also competed on Sunday, falling in the first round of pairs play to Southern California’s Katie Fuller and Cinnamon Sary in a three-set battle, 21-14, 11-21, 16-14.
In the third set, the Seminole pair trailed 11-6, but never gave up, scoring five consecutive points to tie the final set at 11 before the Trojans edged the tandem to move on.
High speed winds and a scattered shower made for an interesting morning of play. Early in the first round matches teams relied completely on ball control as unpredictable winds dictated where the ball would land.
Pardon and Wickstrom dominated their Osprey opponents in the first set in round one, 21-12, before dropping a close second set, 19-21. Led by a couple of resounding Wickstrom kills, the Noles ran away with the third set by opening with a 5-0 lead en route to a 15-8 win.
In the quarterfinals, Pardon and Wickstrom hung with the FIU duo early in the first set and were barely edged 21-19. In the second set, the All-America pair couldn’t get in rhythm, however, as the Panthers built leads of 7-2 and 14-7 before winning 21-15.
The future is bright for FSU heading into its third campaign next spring. The Seminoles will return its top three pairs and will be motivated to challenge 2012 national champion Pepperdine and 2013 champions Long Beach State for the 2014 title – two teams FSU barely lost to during the team competition on Friday and Saturday.
“We had three All-Americans last year, and we added two more different All-Americans this year,” Corso said. “It just shows that we’ve got a lot of great players here. It’s all about who is peaking at the right time. There were probably eight different ladies that could’ve played in that top position this year. I think it makes for a very healthy competitive atmosphere, and that’s what makes great teams.”
FSU is 33-6 in two seasons of sand volleyball play and hasn’t lost to a team on the East Coast. The Noles have had five different All-Americans in two seasons, as Danalee Corso and her husband, assistant coach Brian Corso, are building a juggernaut in Tallahassee.