By Amanda Baxter
The University of Tampa women’s beach volleyball team captured a national championship on Sunday, April 18 in Tavares, Florida. The Spartans finished their season as the No. 1 team in the Division II AVCA Small College Beach Championship.
The team competed on Friday and Saturday in “pool play” which determined if they would prevail into the gold bracket of the competition. After a strong performance, the women moved on to the semifinals.
“There were nerves and excitement at the same time because it was my first time playing at the AVCA championship,” said Tatiana Gutierrez, a freshman playing the number two doubles position. “I was lucky enough to play with senior Katie McKiel, who helped me through the entire tournament as an experienced player and leader on this team.”
In order to win a duel game, the team must win at least 3 of the 5 matchups. Tampa played a close match in the semifinals against Texas A&M Kingsville, where they won 3-2.
“We knew Texas A&M was going to be a good team so we came in with the mindset that we could only control how we played,” said Gutierrez. “It was really important for us to take control of the net when the ball was on our side and stay aggressive.”
The Spartans sweept a 3-0 win in the final round of competition against Spring Hill College for the title. Julia Oswald and Rachel Rosequist won in the first position with a score of 21-13 and 21-19. The number two position played by Melissa Elias and Valerie Rosequist won 21-6, and 21-14. The spartans clinched after Claire Overton and Payton Brunick were victorious with a score of 21-14 and 21-16.
“It feels awesome to win this title again,” said Caire Overton, a sophomore who plays the number five position. “Our whole team has grinded all season and it feels rewarding to see our hard work pay off.”
The last championship took place in 2019 where the Spartans took home their first national title. This now marks the second championship win for the team after a year of COVID-19 setbacks.
“There was definitely a lot of frustration this season,” said Julia Oswald, a junior who plays the number one position. “We experienced a few COVID scares both this semester and last fall, but I think it taught us resilience and perseverance.”
The team finished their season with a 19-11 record and a championship season as they look forward to continuing their success.
“Next season, our goal is to win the AVCA small college nationals again,” said Overton. “We have also been battling with many other teams for a ranking in the top 20 in college beach volleyball, so that is a big goal we hope to achieve.”
Oswald and Rosequist were both named ACA All-Americans for their outstanding performances this season.
“My heart swells with gratitude when I think about being named All-American alongside Rachel,” said Oswald. “It is such an honor, I owe it all to my teammates and coaches.”