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FIU signs first-ever sand volleyball class


FIU's first-ever sand volleyball signee, Emily Podschweit. (Photo credit: Keyser Images)

Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett has received National Letters of Intent (NLI) from seven student-athletes, as Maryna Samoday, Emily Podschweit, Jekaterina Stepanova, Ashley Prince, Elly Citron, Jessica Mendoza and Kathryn Leckinger make up FIU’s first-ever sand volleyball signing class. The Panthers are set to begin competition in the spring of 2013.

“We are extremely excited to keep moving forward with the sand volleyball program, and the signing of this inaugural class is the next big step,” said Buck-Crockett. “These players are really looking forward to being here, not only from a volleyball standpoint, but from an educational standpoint as well. This team has a great level of ambition and raw talent, and these young women know that each and every one of them has a unique opportunity to be a part of something great here at FIU. We can’t wait to get started.”

With her commitment to FIU, Podschweit becomes the state of Colorado’s first-ever beach volleyball recruit. The Parker, Colo., native led Chaparral High School to back-to-back indoor state championships in 2010 and 2011, and is a two-time all-state 5A selection at the libero position. Podschweit brings extensive sand experience to FIU, having participated in numerous events on the USA Beach Volleyball circuit, most recently competing in the invite-only USA High Performance Holiday Camp in Chula Vista, Calif., for the second-straight year.

Samoday will be a double-threat for FIU as she will serve as a member of both the indoor and sand volleyball teams. The Sumy, Ukraine, native played two seasons at Seminole State College, earning 2010 All-Region recognition and MVP All-Region honors. Samoday, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, led the Trojans to their third-straight Region II Championship in 2011 as SSC compiled a record of 35-5.

Stepanova is a transfer from Florida State, as the Seminoles finished third at the first-ever AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championships this past weekend, while Stepanova and teammate Jace Pardon finished third in the pairs competition. A two-year starter on the FSU indoor volleyball team, the Riga, Latvia, native helped lead the Seminoles to the 2011 NCAA Final Four. Stepanova earned All-ACC recognition and was named an AVCA Second Team All-American, making her the second FSU volleyball player to ever earn non-honorable mention All-America honors.

Prince was a multi-sport athlete in high school, having led her squads to indoor district, regional and state championships. The Aubrey, Texas, native set an Aubrey High School record for most blocks, digs and aces all in one match and earned second team all-district team accolades in 2010 at Liberty Christian High School. Prince owns significant sand experience, competing in the AAU Junior Olympics and numerous USA Volleyball High Performance invite-only and USAV Beach Tour events.

Citron hails from Mountain Grove, Mo., where she was a three-time all-conference and all-district selection at Mountain Grove High School. The 5-foot-11 middle hitter spent two seasons at Drury University, and is coming off a campaign in which she led the Panthers with 51 block assists and was second on the team in total blocks (56).

Mendoza comes to FIU from Valencia College, as she previously played one season of indoor competition at Saint Leo University in 2010-11, and the previous year at Broward College. The Winter Park, Fla., native garnered first team all-state and all-conference honors while at 
Broward, and led her Winter Park High School squad to a state championship as a sophomore. Additionally, Mendoza played for the Orlando Volleyball Academy club team.

Leckinger hails from Tallahassee, Fla., and was a four-year letterwinner at Lawton Chiles High School, where she earned Offensive Player of the Year accolades as a freshman and Offensive MVP honors as a sophomore. Leckinger also has club experience, having spent time with the North Florida Volleyball Academy and Pro Style Volleyball Club.