Preview: Beach volleyball

Florida State beach volleyball opens up the 2021 season by facing a pair of nationally ranked teams from the West Coast in Loyola Marymount on Saturday and Cal Poly on Sunday. It’s part of a busy four-match weekend for the Seminoles, who went 12-1 in 2020 before the season was halted.

“Can you only imagine how excited we are for this weekend?” FSU coach Brooke Niles said. “Everyone is really appreciative of just the opportunity to compete. They’re really fired up to go.”

FSU returns the majority of its roster as well as a talented transfer in Torrey Van Winden, who was an All-American in 2018 at Cal Poly. Returning stars Alaina Chacon, Madison Fitzpatrick and Molly McBain made the preseason Coastal Collegiate Sports Association team for a second straight year.

“I love our personnel,” Niles said. “We have a lot of depth. I know I always say that but we have even more now. For us as coaches we’re pretty solid on some pairs.”

A small number of fans will be able to attend matches. Here’s a quick look at the team:

Coach: Brooke Niles is 135-27 in five seasons at FSU.

Last season: FSU knocked off No. 7 Cal Poly, No. 9 Stetson, No. 10 Grand Canyon and No. 17 South Carolina. The Seminoles’ only loss was to No. 4 USC.

2021 schedule: FSU will play in tournaments at LSU as well as Gulf Shores, Ala., and will play at FAU’s tournament in Boca Raton in March. The Seminoles will host the Unconquered Invitational on April 9-10. The full schedule can be viewed here.

Top players: Alaina Chacon and Molly McBain went 13-0 in 2020 as the No. 1 team. Madison Fitzpatrick and Alice Zeimann went 8-3 at No. 2, while Maddie Anderson and Kate Privett went 10-1 at No. 3.

Key newcomer: Van Winden went 19-9 in the No. 1 spot for Cal Poly in 2018. She went 5-4 in 2020, including two wins on court 1.

Veterans with experience: McBain enters her fifth season at FSU with an all-time record of 75-19. Chacon is 46-16 in her career, while Fitzpatrick is 51-23 in her career. 

Postseason history: FSU was prepared to play beach volleyball early when it became a provisional sport and now it is fully sanctioned by the NCAA. The Seminoles have made all eight AVCA or NCAA championships, one of just two schools to do so.