Six teams are all that remain in the 2014 sand volleyball season, and the Hatters are proud to be among the six.
In the third year of the program, the Stetson University sand volleyball team will be making its first-ever appearance in the AVCA Collegiate National Championship this weekend in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Well, technically, it is Stetson’s first appearance as a team.
Two years ago, Stetson’s Kaley Melville and Julie Bassett earned an at-large berth to the collegiate Pairs Tournament, a 16-team bracket designed to determine the top pair in the nation, held in conjunction with the Team Championship.
So while the rest of the Hatters look forward to their first trip to national tournament, Melville, now a senior, and Bassett, a junior, will be making their second trip to Gulf Shores.
“This time is a lot more exciting because the whole team is going,” Bassett said. “It will be great just having more team support so we can cheer on everyone from the sideline.”
Bassett said just she, Melville, and two coaches made the trip in 2012, but having that experience will help her to feel more comfortable this time around.
“I definitely had a bit of freshman jitters the first time,” Bassett said. “Since I have already played there, I feel a lot more confident that I am going to do even better than I did freshman year.”
Melville and Bassett went 1-2 in pool play during their first appearance, earning a No. 12 seed for the Pairs Championship. Unfortunately, the Stetson duo fell to a pair from Long Beach State in the first round. Nevertheless, Bassett remembers the trip fondly.
“It is an awesome experience,” Bassett said. “I felt like a celebrity while I was there. You get all this free gear, and I got to sign autographs for younger girls. They treat you like royalty.”
Everyone one else will get their first experience this weekend as sixth-seeded Stetson (18-4) will take on third-seeded Florida State (16-1) at 11 a.m. Friday in the opening round of the Team Championship. The winner advances to play Pepperdine at 2 p.m., while the loser faces an elimination match at 6 p.m.
Bassett is looking forward to seeing what she and her teammates can do on a national stage.
“I feel overall our team has improved so much,” Bassett said. “I feel like we have a great chance of getting past the first round, and who knows where we are going to go from there. Just having the support from my teammates, I am a lot more confident in how we are going to do.”
Coming Thursday: Hatters Prepare For First-Round Match vs. Florida State