The North Florida Sand Volleyball team is on the verge of achieving a rare accomplishment, a third consecutive A-Sun Championship title.
The Atlantic Sun has served as a pioneer for collegiate sand volleyball from its inception, becoming the first conference at any level to sponsor a conference championship in 2012. In 2013 the A-Sun next became the first conference to receive an automatic bid to the AVCA Collegiate National Championship.
During that time, the Ospreys have led the charge in the A-Sun. In fact, now in its third season, North Florida has yet to lose an A-Sun regular season or tournament match. To put into perspective what North Florida is poised to achieve this season, since 1985 only two other volleyball teams have won three consecutive A-Sun titles in indoor volleyball. UCF did so 1992-97 and Lipscomb accomplished the feat 2009-11.
UNF Head Coach Steve Loeswick appreciates on the early success of his program.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to attract hard-working student-athletes,” said Loeswick. “They come in and try to be the best they can be each day. Our focus is narrow-sighted and each year is a new challenge for us.”
This year’s group of seniors is building a foundation and a legacy both on and off the sand courts for future players at UNF. The Ospreys’ current A-Sun win streak stands at 16, but current Osprey standout and graduate student Dagnija Medina says the expectation is for more to come.
“While our goal is to win the conference, we are more focused on how to get better today, in our next match,” said Medina. Medina and senior Anna Budinska were the first pair to represent the conference in the AVCA National Championship, along with becoming two-time All-Conference selections (2012, 2013), the 2013 Atlantic Sun Tournament Most Valuable Pair and All-Conference Academic honorees.
“Our academic focus is just as high as our focus to get better on the court. We are a family and we support one another in the daily process of trying to be the best,” Medina added.
As the sport continues to grow on the collegiate level, even high school level, Loeswick talked about future goals for his program.
“It’s an exciting time in the sport of sand volleyball,” said Loeswick. “Today there are more opportunities for student-athletes to compete as more programs are formed across the country. We want to continue to attract the right people to our program who work hard every day. The Atlantic Sun Conference, with its automatic bid to the national tournament, gives our program the chance to compete at the highest level.”
Currently North Florida sits at 6-0 in league play, securing at minimum a share of its second straight regular season title. The Atlantic Sun Conference Championship will be held in Fort Myers, Fla., April 18-19, where the Ospreys are ready for the opportunity to join a select group of Atlantic Sun Conference Champions.