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Eagles volleyball team hopes magic remains in Gainesville

Georgia Southern has had plenty of success in Gainesville 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 the Gainesville regional of the NCAA tournament, where 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 NCAA tournament’s Gainesville regional at 5 p.m. Thursday. With a win, GSU would face the winner between Florida and Jacksonville on Saturday.
GSU’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 dropping only 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 home loss 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 how 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.”

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