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Eagles face FSU in NCAA tournament
The Georgia Southern Eagles celebrate their 3-1 win over Samford on Sunday, Nov. 24, in the championship game of the Southern Conference tournament in Greenville, S.C. - photo by SoCon Athletics

Georgia Southern (28-5) vs. Florida State (24-7)
5 p.m., Thursday
Gainesville, Fla.

    Georgia Southern has had plenty of success in Gainesville, Fla., this year.
    On Feb. 20, the baseball Eagles beat the Florida Gators 8-7 in extra innings.
    On May 18, the softball team went to Gainesville regional of the NCAA tournament, and pitcher Sarah Purvis threw a no-hitter against Hampton in a 3-0 win.
    Then, of course, the football team beat Florida 26-20 on Nov. 23.
    Now, it’s the volleyball team’s turn.
    The Southern Conference champion Eagles (28-5) will face Florida State (24-7) in the Gainesville regional of the NCAA tournament on Thursday. With a win, GSU would face the winner between Florida and Jacksonville on Saturday.
    Georgia Southern’s success on Florida’s campus has not gone unnoticed by the volleyball team.
    “Hopefully we’ll go down there and do the same thing,” outside hitter Jamie DeRatt said with a smile.
    The Eagles dominated the SoCon tournament, eliminating Elon, Appalachian State and Samford while only dropping two games in the process.
    “When we went in it was like we were taking no prisoners,” defensive specialist Alexandra Beecher said. “We knew what we wanted to do, and we just fought so hard. We plan on doing the same thing (against FSU).”
    Sometimes, mid-major programs are just happy to be in the NCAA tournament, but GSU, whose only game against another tournament participant this season was a loss at home to Georgia, has every intention of winning.
    “I feel like a lot of teams go in like that, but we’ve had such a good season.” DeRatt said. “We fight hard and we know we can beat anyone. Our best is better than a lot of teams’ best.”
    During the regular season, the Eagles won matches against Ole Miss and Arkansas state at a tournament in Oxford, Miss., and won each of the four early-season tournaments they played in.
    “High-intensity matches prepared us for those high seeded teams,” DeRatt said. “We’re excited to go down there.”
    Head coach Dustin Wood is happy with the was his first season with the Eagles has gone. Wood led GSU to 28 wins, which matches the best season in history.
    “These kids have put in the work and I’m proud of them. I’m new. It took me about a week, and they’ve bought in,” Wood said. “They’ve seen results. We’re not done. We have the first round of the NCAAs, and we expect to win.”
    The Eagles will face Florida State on Thursday at 5 p.m.
    Jacksonville and Florida face off Thursday at 7 p.m.

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