GULF SHORES, Ala. – With a record-setting 33-7 season and the best NCAA Championship run the team has ever seen, the Florida State beach volleyball team fell in the finals to No. 1 overall UCLA to finish as the NCAA National Runner Up for the second time in three years.
The Seminoles went undefeated in the tournament to reach the title match, marking their best championship run to date. The team's previous best finish was in 2016, when they fell in the winners bracket semifinal and finished as the runner up to then-undefeated USC.
"We had a great experience here," said head coach Brooke Niles. "We stayed in the winners bracket longer than any other team. We lost once and so did UCLA. It has been a great tournament. Congrats to them. They played great, but I'm really proud of my team and we fought till the very end."
FSU was the team to hand UCLA its first loss of the Championship in the second round, sending the Bruins to the elimination bracket. The top-seeded team was able to survive the lower bracket to make it to the finals to see the Seminoles again. It marked UCLA's first win over the Seminoles in the NCAA Championship.
The final match was split into two rounds, with the No. 4 and 5 pairs up first. The Seminoles rolled through both of the first sets, but couldn't compete with a couple of UCLA pairs that found their groove in the second sets. After Goncalves/Fitzpatrick dropped the third set on five, Brooke Kuhlman and Molly McBain earned the first win for the Seminoles with a three-set win to tie up the match 1-1.
In the second round of play, the top of the lineup was paired up with three tough Bruins pairs. UCLA took the first set on all three courts, and then closed out the win with victories on three and one.
"This postseason tournament is something really special," Goncalves said. "It's a lot of pressure, but in the best kind of way. Really getting to use everything you've learned throughout the season and all the hard work to play these games against the top teams every single time is what's important. I just had the best experience playing with Madison and I'm just so proud of everything she's done in this post tournament. It's heartbreaking at the end, but it's all been worth it this season."
Florida State marked a historic postseason in 2018, handing USC its first loss in the Championship, becoming the first No. 4 seed to knock off the top-seeded team, and ending a 31-dual win and 32-dual win streak for UCLA and Hawaii, respectively.
Following their impressive performance at the Championship, Katie Horton and Hailey Luke were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Prior to the national tournament, the team earned its third-straight CCSA Championship in the most efficient conference championship run in history – dropping only one flight out of 28 and sweeping five of its six opponents.