The Georgia Southern Eagles have plenty of confidence heading into the NCAA volleyball tournament, and why shouldn’t they?
The Eagles (28-5) won regular season tournaments at Ole Miss, South Alabama and a pair at home in Hanner Fieldhouse, and also won the Southern Conference tournament on Nov. 24, in Greenville, S.C.
They face ACC champion and 16th-ranked Florida State (24-7) today at 5 p.m., in Gainesville, Fla., to open their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2010.
“This is a goal that we set early in the season — to get past the first round of the tournament — so now we just have to take care of business,” GSU outside hitter Jamie DeRatt said.
The other game in the Gainesville regional pairs the tournament’s overall No. 6 seed, and the host school Florida, against Jacksonville at 7 p.m.
All GSU’s attention is focused on Florida State.
“They’re a good ACC school and they’re experienced. It’s a very winnable match for us, and we’ve been telling these kids all year, ‘If you play well, good things will happen.’ If we play well, I like our chances,” first-year GSU coach Dustin Wood said.
Florida State isn’t looking past the Eagles, either. The Seminoles defeated GSU in the 2010 Gainesville regional, 3-1, before they were eliminated by Florida that season.
They know they’re not facing the same Georgia Southern team from 2010.
"We know that Georgia Southern had a great year in their conference," FSU coach Chris Poole said. "They've got a new coach, they're very inspired and we know we're going to have to play well. Anyone you meet in the tournament has had a lot of success or they wouldn't be there. In those situations, you have to step up and you can't take anyone for granted."
The Eagles are riding a five-game winning streak including SoCon tournament wins over Elon, Appalachian State and Samford
“I hope they take the experience from last week in the SoCon tournament,” Wood said. “It was a stressful situation and I thought they handled it very well. If they do that this weekend, we’ll be fine.”
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.