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Eagles set for FSU in NCAA tourney

Eagles set for FSU in NCAA tourney

Eagles set for FSU in NCAA tourney

    Georgia Southern knew it was going to the NCAA Tournament.
    After beating College of Charleston 3-0 in the Southern Conference volleyball tournament, the Lady Eagles earned the automatic bid.
    Even so, when the Eagles (27-8) saw their name on the screen during the NCAA selection show as they watched Sunday at Locos Deli and Pub, and found out they would be playing Florida State in the first round, it was still a bit of a shock.
    “I guess it’s a reality check,” said sophomore middle hitter Moriah Bellissimo. “Of course we were like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to the NCAA’s,’ but to actually see it, that we’re playing FSU at Florida, it really hits you then.”
      The Eagles will face Florida State (21-10) Friday at 5 p.m. at Florida’s O’Connell Center to open the tournament.
    Georgia Southern coach Chad Callihan wasn’t surprised with the draw.
    “It just seemed like it made since because of the way the bracket was falling. It’s an interesting matchup for us,” Callihan said about the Lady Seminoles. “They’ve had a strong year obviously, everybody that’s made it this far has a good team. They’re a big, physical team, and they create some problems for us matchup-wise. I think we create a few for them.”
    The Eagles lost twice to Charleston during the regular season, but feel like the momentum of the SoCon title over the Cougars will help them Friday against FSU.
    “Hopefully we can carry it far,” said sophomore setter Kate Van Dyke. “We ended the championship game at a high level and we were connecting really well. If we can see that through, we can get pretty far.”
    “This is what they’re working for,” said Callihan. “This is what they invest every day in — trying to get better so they can enjoy these types of moments. We had a nice party here this afternoon, and we know that when we go down to the “O” dome on Friday that we’ll be represented well.”
    Georgia Southern has been in the NCAA tournament before. The Eagles lost in the first round to Florida in 2003 and to Pepperdine in 2001.
    In Callihan’s third year at GSU and first trip to the tournament with the Eagles, he knows the team won’t be satisfied with a first-round loss.
    “We’ve discussed what our goals are,” he said. “Are we happy with what we’ve done and is this where we plan on staying, or do we want more? Do we want to see how far we can take this thing? It was a unanimous, ‘Let’s see how far we can take it.’”
    The winner of the matchup between FSU and the Eagles will face the winner between No. 1 Florida (27-1) and South Carolina State (17-22) on Saturday.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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