For the first time in the program’s history the Florida Southwestern volleyball team won a national championship over the weekend in Missouri.
When FSW head coach Thais Bazaquetto-Allen took the Bucs job four years ago she was asked one question, can you win a national title here?
“I literally did not think twice and I said yes and I think that was, that was the turning point,” Coach Baziquetto-Allen said.
On Saturday her vision came true.
“My mind was just like, I can’t believe, I can’t believe. The last five points I thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to pass out,” FSW Sophomore outside hitter and MVP of the tournament Barbara Koehler said.
In only four years as a program the Bucs have played in the national tournament three times and on their latest bid defeated rival Miami Dade 3 sets to 1 to win their first national championship.
“We talked about it from the beginning of the season like you know this is what we are going to do, this is what we are going to try to accomplish. When it first really happens it’s just like unrealistic and you just feel like you weren’t there,” Coach Baziquetto-Allen said.
As far as dream seasons go, this is right up there for FSW.
“In the beginning of the season if you asked me how we would look like I would’ve never said we would look like this,” FSW Sophomore middle hitter Julia Lawrenz said.
The Bucs went 27-1 and fought through a tough schedule that had them play Miami Dade three other times during the season and 11 total ranked games.
On top of a grueling and difficult schedule the team, like all of Southwest Florida was hit with adversity no one could have seen coming.
“After passing through all of the situation with the hurricane and so many games and keep strong and keep winning. It was really hard and it was really tough and after this I think there was nothing that could stop us,” Lawrenz said.
It was adversity that could have broken the team. They couldn’t practice in their home arena, they had to bounce all around the state to play their games and had to practice in high school and club volleyball gyms. They spent hours and hours with only each other during the worst of Hurricane Ian.
That could have driven some teams crazy but instead it bonded them.
“When we were in quarantine we did like a Pictionary game. You know we knew that there was this destruction over here but we knew we had to continue the season and it was at that moment we got a glimpse of like everything is going to be okay and we are all together,” Coach Baziquetto-Allen said. .
A bond that helped carry this team to the best season in program history and allowed them to etch their names in the history books and in each other’s hearts forever.
“I have one quote that I always keep in my mind that is ‘people will forget what you did, people will forget what you say but they will never forget how you make them feel.’ I will never, never forget how this group made me feel,” Koehler said.