Finishing Strong: VanLiew, Florida Gulf Coast headed back to NCAA Tournament

When the NCAA last year granted athletes an extra year of eligibility after the COVID-19 pandemic led to shortened seasons, Cortney VanLiew knew she wanted to take advantage of that and play a fifth volleyball season at Florida Gulf Coast.

The fifth-year senior from Columbus East certainly has made the most of her extra year. She set the school’s all-time record for kills, and last week, she helped lead the Eagles to the ASUN Tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m excited,” VanLiew said. “This is a great opportunity to come back for an additional year. Even though we did have a partial year last year, it just wasn’t the same, and this year has felt like a final senior year.”

The Eagles (26-5) went 16-1 in the ASUN this season, earning the home court for the conference tournament. They swept Liberty and North Florida in three sets before knocking off Jacksonville State in four sets in the final.

“We’ve actually had a phenomenal season,” said VanLiew, who made the All-Tournament team. “We only lost one game in conference, which is pretty exceptional. We have a really tough conference. We also never lost at home, which is the first time in FGC volleyball, so it was nice to protect our home court.”

Earlier this season, the 5-foot-11 outside hitter passed Amanda Carroll for the school’s all-time kills record. VanLiew now has 1,642 kills in her career with the Eagles.

“I think coming in, I didn’t have any intention of breaking a record or anything like that,” VanLiew said. “But it’s definitely an honor to be at the top of the list of some pretty talented individuals like Amanda Carroll and Brooke Youngquist. We’ve had some pretty talented players here.”

VanLiew graduated in May with an undergrad degree in accounting. She plans to get her master’s in business administration in May 2022.

Because of COVID, last year’s indoor volleyball season was moved from fall to spring, meaning VanLiew didn’t get a chance to play beach volleyball in the spring. She plans to return to the beach volleyball team this coming spring.

This will be VanLiew’s second appearance in the NCAA Tournament. She led Florida Gulf Coast to the tourney as a sophomore in 2018.

The tournament pairings will be announced on Sunday, and play begins next weekend.

“I think the experience will definitely help, but when you look at who’s still on the team from the 2018, there’s only four of us,” VanLiew said. “There’s a lot of youth and a lot of girls experiencing it for the first time.”

VanLiew is a two-time ASUN Player of the Year and three-time first-team All-ASUN selection. She also has been a member of the ASUN All-Academic team the past three years and was selected to the ASUN All-Decade team for 2010-19.

“I would have never guessed that this is the success and experience I could have had,” VanLiew said. “When coach (Matt Botsford) was recruiting me, he mentioned the goals and how we could have accomplish those goals, and looking back, I think we did more than he could have even imagined.”