Rachel Fairbanks (left) and Kiriana Hirini celebrate a point in their three-set match at the No. 4 position.
March 3, 2012
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The UAB volleyball team made a little history Saturday by hosting the first-ever sanctioned collegiate sand volleyball match.
The Blazers suffered a 5-0 loss to Florida State at the new UAB sand volleyball courts, but the crowd and atmosphere despite the chilly temperatures suggest a good amount of interest in the program the Blazers are building.
Collegiate sand volleyball -- in its first season of competition after being designated an emerging sport by the NCAA in 2011 -- features five two-on-two matches (best of three sets). The team that takes at least three of those five contests wins the team match.
Florida State (1-0) won each of the five on Saturday, including four of them in straight sets, to leave Birmingham with its first victory. The Seminoles' roster features a mixture of indoor players and sand-only players, while UAB's roster is composed completely of members of its indoor team.
"Our girls really shouldn't be down after this loss," UAB head coach Hal Messersmith said. "We've only had a few weeks of full outdoor practice, and a lot of Florida State's players have been practicing in the sand since August.
"We had a fantastic crowd out here and a good atmosphere. I know it was enjoyable for our players, and I think it was for the fans, too."
The Blazer duo dropped a 21-14 first set before turning up their level of play for a 21-9 victory in set two -- the most dominating set score among any of the five matches that counted toward Saturday's team score. Hirini and Fairbanks continued their strong play in the third but fell by a 17-15 margin.
The Seminoles also won each of the other three matches. Brittany Tiegs and Aurora Newgard downed Heather Thomas and Kirsten Gallagher, 21-10, 21-12, at the top spot. Visnja Djurdjevic and Melanie Pavels defeated Kate Morrell and Ally Slaughter, 21-15, 21-11, at No. 4. And Jeassica McGregor and Sarah Wickstrom topped Michele Simmons and Becca Howard, 21-15, 21-14, at No. 5.
The teams also played three exhibition matches as the six remaining players on each roster got out on the sand, as well. The matches did not count toward the final team score, but Florida State won each of them.
UAB returns to action next Saturday with a trip to Tulane. The Blazers have two home matches left on the schedule -- an April 6 contest with the Green Wave and an April 17 date with Mercer.
Complete Match Results
Florida State 5, UAB 0
No. 1 - Brittany Tiegs/Aurora Newgard (FSU) def. Heather Thomas/Kirsten Gallagher (UAB); 21-10, 21-12
No. 2 - Jace Pardon/Kate Stepanova (FSU) def. Sam Serley/Alison Woods (UAB); 21-16, 21-18
No. 3 - Visnja Djurdjevic/Melanie Pavels (FSU) def. Kate Morrell/Ally Slaughter (UAB); 21-15, 21-11
No. 4 - Mallory Kiley/Stephanie Pellitteri (FSU) def. Rachel Fairbanks/Kiriana Hirnini (UAB); 21-14, 9-21, 17-15
No. 5 - Jeassica McGregor/Sarah Wickstrom (FSU) def. Michelle Simmons/Becca Howard (UAB); 21-15, 21-14
Exhibition - Fatma Yildirim/Marija Milosavljevic (FSU) def. Mariah McCallum/Thais Soares (UAB); 25-13, 25-13
Exhibition - Amanda Saxton/Jeassica McGregor (FSU) def. Bethany Stanford/Sam Skinner (UAB); 21-11, 21-16
Exhibition - Lacey Blackmon/Caitlin Hayworth (FSU) def. Lindsay Simmons/Ashley Ricks (UAB); 21-5, 21-7