On the heels of a strong 14-3 regular season, the Stetson sand volleyball team will compete for the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship this Friday and Saturday at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla.
The second-seeded Hatters will open the double-elimination tournament at 11 a.m. Friday against third-seeded Jacksonville. UNF is the defending champion and the No. 1 seed.
"We are very excited and very prepared heading into this weekend," senior Kaley Melville said. "I think we have done a great job of getting ready for what is ahead of us."
The Hatters have been looking forward to this year's tournament since the end of last season when Stetson came within just a few points of capturing the championship. The team knows, however, that it has to advance through the early rounds in order to have another shot at the title.
"You have to take it a game at a time," senior Jordann Dierickx said. "You have to win the first one to get to the next one. We are facing great competition and we just have to take it point-by-point to get to the championship game."
Head coach Kristina Hernandez says the all of the pairs have shown improvements in staying composed and working together during tough situations and stressful moments.
"Overall, I think all the pairs feel strong and confident," Hernandez said. "I think they are ready to just get there and play."
The winner of Friday's match will advance to a Saturday morning semifinal against the winner of the UNF-FGCU/Mercer match. The championship will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon in a one-game, winner-take-all format.
"We have to take it game-by-game, and not get to far ahead of ourselves," Hernandez said. "We have to focus on what we need to do on Friday, and once we see what happens there, just focus on who we have next on Saturday. Same thing with our pairs, they really need to focus on what they are doing as individual pairs, and then focus on the team afterwards."
The Atlantic Sun champion will receive an automatic bid to the AVCA National Tournament May 2-4 in Gulf Shores, Ala.
For live updates during the tournament, fans can follow the Stetson Sand Volleyball twitter feed (@StetsonSVB) or subscribe to the Hat-Alerts text messaging service.