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.
Four of the five courts in the dual were decided in three sets, as the Seminoles saw the closest match of their tournament run this weekend. Florida State has stayed undefeated in the Championship this season, taking out two-time reigning champion USC, No. 1 overall UCLA, and now No. 3 Hawaii to advance to the title match.
"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 Wahine 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.
Up Next for the Seminoles
Florida State moves on to the championship match, which will be held Sunday afternoon at 1 pm CT. The Seminoles will face the winner of Hawaii and UCLA, who play in the elimination bracket semifinal Sunday morning at 10:30 am CT.
- Florida State set its program record with a 33-6 season record.
- Previous was 32-3 in 2016, Niles' first season at FSU
- This marks the first time in program history the Seminoles have made it to the finals undefeated in the NCAA Championship
- Their previous best run included a loss to USC before advancing to the finals.
- This win snapped Hawaii's 32-match win streak. Their last loss in the season was to Florida State at the East Meets West Challenge.
- FSU is one of only two teams to defeat Hawaii this season (along with UCLA).
Florida State's Lineup
No. 1 – Tory Paranagua and Vanessa Freire
- One of two FSU pairs named to the CCSA All-Conference Team.
- 15-4 season record, all in the No. 1 position
- Both hit 100 career overall wins this season, making them two of six players in program history to reach the milestone.
- Paranagua is one win away from becoming the first Seminole to earn 100 career dual match wins.
No. 2 – Hailey Luke and Katie Horton
- CCSA Tournament MVP
- 33-3 season record, undefeated at No. 1 (2-0) and No. 2 (18-0)
- Has won their last 21 matches, with most wins coming in the No. 2 position.
- Horton leads the team with 33 wins this season.
No. 3 – Macy Jerger and Sara Putt
- 19-1 season record, with one win at No. 2 and 18 wins at No. 3.
- Jerger holds the program record for most wins earned in the No. 3 position with a 44-11 record.
- Holds the second-highest pairs record on the team with 19 wins.
- Jerger was named CCSA Scholar-Athlete of the Year twice (2017 and 2018).
- Putt was an All-American with Stetson in 2016.
No. 4 – Brooke Kuhlman and Molly McBain
- 14-3 record, all in the No. 4 position.
- The pair has won 13 of their last 15 matches.
- Clinched both of FSU's wins on the first day of the CCSA Championship, and clinched the Seminoles' win over UCLA in the NCAA Championship.
- McBain owns the fourth-most wins on the team with a 26-6 record this season.
- Kuhlman was named an AVCA All-American in 2017.
No. 5 – Francesca Goncalves and Madison Fitzpatrick
- 4-1 record.
- Earned the first points for the Seminoles against both USC and UCLA on the first day of the NCAA Championship, and clinched FSU's semifinal win over Hawaii.
- Goncalves holds a 29-5 record this season with 18 wins in the No. 5 position. She has a 59-12 record as a sophomore.
- Fitzpatrick has a 14-4 record in the No. 5 position.
The NCAA Championship final match Sunday afternoon will air on ESPN. Links for the live stream and coverage for each court can be found here.
Follow the team on Facebook (Florida State Beach Volleyball), Twitter (FSU_BeachVB) and Instagram (FSUbeachvolleyball).