FGCU volleyball clinches first NCAA berth

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For the first time ever, the FGCU volleyball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament.

After losing in the tournament final each of the last two years, the Eagles held on for a wild fifth-set win in the Atlantic Sun championship on Saturday, beating Kennesaw State 25-20, 27-25, 22-25, 17-25, 15-12.

“This is a special night for our program and players,” FGCU coach Matt Botsford said. “A lot of hard work has gone into this, and there is nothing more rewarding as a coach than seeing your team getting to celebrate a moment like that.”

FGCU won the tie-breaker fifth set after winning the first two, but saw the Owls rally back in the third and fourth sets to force the winner-take-all fifth.

The Eagles made it to the conference final for the fourth time in program history on Saturday, losing to Lipscomb in 2016 and Kennesaw State in 2017, they also made the tournament final in 2009 in their first year of eligibility.

Until Saturday, the volleyball team had been one of the few FGCU team sports to never make an NCAA Tournament. Both basketball teams, both soccer teams, softball, baseball, and men’s tennis have all made and won at least one tournament game. Women’s tennis and beach volleyball, which the NCAA began sponsoring a national championship in 2016, are the only other two without an NCAA appearance.

The tournament draw will happen on Sunday, with first and second round matchups starting on November 29.

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