In their first-ever NCAA Division-I Tournament match, Florida Gulf Coast University women's volleyball team beat the University of Central Florida in the first round on Thursday. The Lady Eagles will now face University of Florida Friday night.
The competitiveness and the inner drive the FGCU volleyball team has advancing in the tournament is a new vibe that’s never been felt for the team.
Just getting to the NCAA tournament is a milestone for them because it's the first time in school history the team has made it this far. During the past two years, the team had to sit back and wait coming up just one game short to make it to volleyball’s big dance.
"You always go and watch the NCAA tournament, every year and you’re like, wow those are the best players in the nation," said Daniele Serrano.
This year is different. They are one of those players they watched win the trophy.
Daniele plays the middle position on the court. She says that the team has put in a lot of work to get this far, "so the fact that we were able to go there and do this is really emotional. We’re really proud of ourselves."
The team doesn’t pat themselves on the back for their success this year. They credit their 26-6 record to their coach, Matt Botsford.
"The thing he said was his goal is to get this program to the NCAA on a national level and make everybody know how good this program can be," said FGCU senior Maggie Rick.
With the help from Coach Botsford and a strong team chemistry, Botsford knows it’s a team effort that got the Lady Eagles this far.
"The growth the team has to go through, you know to taste it and not quite get it, to motivate them to come back, and this year third time was the charm," said Coach Botsford.
This is Coach Botsford's fifth season as head coach of the FGCU women's volleyball team after being hired in 2014.
And now they're putting their game faces on.
One of their tactics: being aggressive. The team has headed into the NCAA tournament as an underdog but, "I don’t think anyone on my team believes that, but there’s no way we’re successful if we’re passive," said Coach Botsford.
Maggie Rick believes that the team is looking to shock the world, "It’s a really exciting position to be in. The whole time we’ve been talking about it we’re saying 'why not us? Why can’t we be the ones to make an upset? Why can’t we be the ones to make a run in the tournament?"