The Florida SouthWestern State College volleyball team goes through preparations for its inaugural season inside Suncoast Credit Union Arena in North Fort Myers.
Florida SouthWestern State College boasts four athletic programs that have been ranked top 20 in the National Junior College Athletic Association: men’s basketball (No. 1), women’s basketball (No. 17), baseball (No. 13) and softball (No. 1).
For the 2019-20 season, the Buccaneers are adding a new sport to their athletics program — one that’s garnered recent attention from local media outlets.
The FSW volleyball team, officially created in 2017, is closing in on its inaugural season opener. But first, there are multiple scrimmages at the College of Central Florida on Aug. 16 followed by an Aug. 19 home exhibition against fellow Southwest Florida program Ave Maria University.
This ground-breaking Buccaneers squad is comprised of 15 players — 13 freshmen and two sophomore transfers. Eleven of them hail from foreign countries — seven from Brazil, and one each from France, Germany, Bulgaria and Egypt — while the remaining four are from the United States.
On July 6, 2018, FSW Athletics Director George Sanders selected Thais Baziquetto-Allen to lead this brand-new Bucs squad.
Baziquetto-Allen spent the previous three seasons as head coach at Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kansas. There, she guided the Lady Saints to three straight NJCAA Region VI championship appearances, winning back-to-back titles in 2016 and ’17.
“We are very excited to add Thais to the FSW Buccaneer athletics family,” Sanders said. “She was an outstanding player in the FCSAA (at St. Petersburg College) and is a proven coach in the NJCAA. We feel that FSW can provide her with the tools and assets to build a successful program from the start.”
A native of Guarulhos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and wife of FSW Sports Information Director Roy Allen, Baziquetto-Allen comes from a true volleyball family.
“I have been playing volleyball since I was young,” she said. “Pretty much everyone in my family has played volleyball from a club and professional level.”
Before coming to the United States, Baziquetto-Allen played club level amateur volleyball in Brazil. She began her collegiate career at SPC as an outside hitter/right side and helped lead the Titans to a 26-9 record. After two years in St. Pete, Baziquetto-Allen transferred to NCAA Division II Western New Mexico University, where, as a senior, she was selected to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference All-Academic Team.
Immediately after her hiring last summer, Baziquetto-Allen said, “In short time, FSW Athletics has become a powerhouse at the NJCAA level and I look forward to continuing that with our volleyball program.”
Alex Soloid joined Baziquetto-Allen on July 9 after spending last season at Jefferson College in Missouri.
“I was excited to have Alex as part of our program,” Baziquetto-Allen said. “He has coached and played at the highest levels around the world and will bring a high volleyball IQ to the table for us. I look forward to working with Alex to put the best possible product on the floor for all of our amazing FSW fans.”
Born in Moscow, Russia, Soloid played professionally in nine different countries. He captured gold medals in the Argentinean Professional League and in the Cup of Russia.
After ending his 23-year playing career, Soloid began coaching in the pro circuit. He started with Club Dynamo in Russia’s Super League, guiding the team to a gold medal in the 2009 Super Cup of Russia. After two years with Club Dynamo, Soloid spent four years as head coach of the San Pedro Volleyball Club in Alcantara, Spain.
• Amy Barley, Soph., Libero/Defensive Specialist: An Alva native and Riverdale High School alum, Barley joins FSW after spending her freshman year at NCAA DII Shorter University in Georgia. Last season, she recorded 14 digs and two services aces in 17 matches.
• Marina Alonso, Soph., Setter: A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Alonso spent her freshman year at Texas’ Laredo Community College, where she was second on the team in assists (244).
• Hannah Pabon, Freshman, Right Side/Outside Hitter: Another local product, Pabon graduated from Southwest Florida Christian Academy, where she posted 149 kills and 465 service aces as a three-year varsity player.
• Lexi Hurtado, Freshman, Outside Hitter: A native of Aurora, Colorado, Hurtado finished her high school career with 706 kills, 808 aces and 531 digs. She was an all-state honorable mention her senior year.
• Viktoria Ivanova, Freshman, Libero: A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, Ivanova was a member of the Bulgarian U19/U20 national team and the Levski Sofia volleyball club. She won a silver medal in the Bulgarian National Championship and competed in the first round of the 2017-18 CEV Women’s Challenge Cup in Luxembourg.
• CCF Invitational (Aug. 23-24): The Buccaneers officially open their season in Ocala with this two-day event. They’ll face off with Pasco-Hernando State, Florida Gateway, Gulf Coast State College and host College of Central Florida.
• Palm Beach State and Eastern Florida State College (Sept. 3): FSW gets a tri-match with the Panthers and Titans to kick off its home schedule.
• FSCJ Tournament of Champions (Sept. 13-14): The Buccaneers will compete in their final tournament in Jacksonville. Other teams include Richard Bland College, Polk State, Eastern Florida State College and host Florida State College at Jacksonville.
• St. Petersburg College (Sept. 24): A home date against the defending regular-season champion awaits the Bucs as they begin their Suncoast Conference schedule.
• State College of Florida (Oct. 15): FSW closes out the regular season with a conference match against the Manatees. The Bucs will honor Barley and Alonso as part of the team’s inaugural Sophomore Night.