PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) The Florida State, UAB, and Georgia State beach volleyball teams soaked up the sun and sand Sunday at the Russell Fields Pier in Panama City Beach.
The regular season begins in February, but this is one of five fall tournaments before the Seminoles begin their quest to vie for a national championship.
They've been having fun since Friday visiting the area and meeting boosters, since this event was postponed a day by Tropical Storm Nestor. Twice national runner-ups, they want to win their first national championship next spring in Gulf Shores, so this is a business trip too.
"We practice so hard in the fall," sophomore Kate Privett said. "It's nice to be able to improve our skills in competition and compete against different teams. We also get to play with different partners and see how we match up with different people on our team."
While the same is true for UAB and Georgia State, it was also a long-awaited homecoming for two players in particular.
Blazers senior Kenley Adams went to Mosley. Panthers junior Eden Hawes played for Arnold. Both come back for the holidays, but neither have played a collegiate event in the area until now, much to the delight of family and friends.
"Having the whole team come visit my hometown my senior year and having all my family and friends that are still around come out and support is actually really incredible," Adams said. "My mom is literally taking pictures all day because she loves to do that! They've said a million times today, 'I'm just so happy your home, playing on your home turf, that's so exciting!'"
Beach volleyball is generally played on manmade courts in a stadium atmosphere. Playing in the breeze, by the water, in the white sand weren't the only major differences Hawes noticed.
"A lot bigger crowd that usual when we travel since it's back home," she admitted with a smile. "But it was calming being back here since I've played here my whole life and it was exciting having them here."
FSU finished the day with the best record, a 23-2 overall mark.
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