It’s almost time for one of Florida’s most dominant teams to start playing this year. Seminole’s beach volleyball team kicks off competition in late February and seeks to continue their dominance over their conference and the country.
Since beach volleyball’s inception as an NCAA sport in 2016, the Seminoles have staked their claim as one of the top programs in America, led by longtime head coach Brooke Niles. Each season, the team has placed first in their conference, the only program to do so, and has progressed to the first five NCAA Championships (2016-19, 2021). They have finished as national runners-up in 2016 and 2018. This season, Florida State looks set to finally secure a national title, and there’s reason for fans to believe they could.
First up, the team will bring back three of last season’s four AVCA All-Americans in Alaina Chacon, Keara Rutz and Torrey Van Winden. This trio contributed to more than a third of the team’s victories last season. In addition to the returnees, this year’s Florida State team will benefit from the additions of Jordan Polo and Brook Bauer, two senior transfers from Pepperdine and UC Berkeley, respectively.
“They are used to experience that competition at a top level week in week out and to play at a high level,” said coach Niles. “I think our team needed that, a lot of starters from last year graduating is exactly that experience.”
The returnees in the team make a positive impact both on and off the field. Their experience and advice will be essential for the growth of the newcomers.
“We matched a lot of our more experienced players with younger players in the fall of this year to help those younger players just get used to that standard in tournaments and it’s been really successful for us,” said coach Niles. “Our group of undergrads has a lot of experience coming in and they really challenge everyone and they just add a different flavor to the practices and I think, you know, everyone is going to see a different Florida State beach volleyball team.”
Between the “real” freshmen and the red shirts freshmen on this season’s roster, there will be six new members who have not yet touched the Seminole beach volleyball sands in an NCAA regular season game.
The team will also see the full-time return of another Chacon sister. After three years of going back and forth from beach to house, Seminole fans should be delighted to see Morgan Chacon return full-time to the sands to finish her career.
“[She is] really excited to see how she develops,” said coach Niles.
The capstone of this season’s potential championship is a major change from the sidelines. Summer Nash has joined the Seminoles to take the position of assistant coach following the departure of Jason Lochhead. Lochhead held the position for two years after a wealth of international playing and coaching experience and has since taken the position to coach beach volleyball in New Zealand.
Nash arrives in Tallahassee after being a key part of Stanford’s success as their volunteer assistant coach last season. Before that, she played on the San Diego State indoor volleyball team for four years and played one season for Florida International University on the beach.
“Summer stood out to me because she had played herself, collegiate beach volleyball, and we hadn’t had a coach who had actually played in college,” said coach Niles. “I think it’s a unique experience that she knows what the girls are going through.”
The beach volleyball team will host the FSU Beach Bash on February 26 and 27. The state of Florida will host another invitation on April 8 and 9. With all the excitement surrounding the team, a national championship could be just around the corner.