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Sailing team wins district, earns trip to Hawaii

Two weeks ago the USF sailing team was emotionally devastated at the College of Charleston.

The coed team lost a substantial advantage and was forced to take a penalty, both on the final day of competition, costing itself a trip to the national championships in Hawaii.

Also, the team suffered emotional distress by seeing teammate Andi Paolella fall ill and be taken to the hospital.

But the devastation and heartbreak of two weeks ago turned to jubilation this past weekend as the women’s team won the district championship regatta held at the St. Petersburg campus and earned the coveted trip to Hawaii.

Coach Stephanie Doyle said the team won by five points against the heavily favored College of Charleston team, which is nationally ranked at No. 10.

“It’s amazing. We’ve never beaten (Charleston) ever. It’s quite a milestone,” Doyle said. “We worked so hard, especially after what happened two weeks ago. It just makes everything worth it.”

Doyle said each competitor on the team scored personal bests. The A team of Genoa Griffin and Amanda Olivier placed first in seven of their 12 races. The B team of Ali Deese and Claudia Aguado added six more victories in their division.

“They were incredibly consistent,” Doyle said. “Both teams won their division.”

Doyle said beating a powerhouse such as the College of Charleston was particularly important for Deese and Aguado.

“For two girls that never stepped into a boat before college, it’s a huge accomplishment,” she said. “The College of Charleston is a tremendous team. We’re just really excited.”

The team will see the College of Charleston again in Hawaii. The top two teams from the district championships make the trip to the national regatta.

Doyle said the team must now prepare to race in Hawaii, where she said the conditions will be far different than Tampa Bay. Doyle said the venue there will be windy and difficult to sail. She said the team must find a place to practice that will simulate those windy conditions. Doyle said despite the differences, she feels her team can repeat the accomplishments of this weekend.

“I’m really confident the girls will go and do well there,” Doyle said.

Doyle said while practice for Hawaii will begin shortly, the team is going to savor their victory for a bit longer.

“We’re going to just kind of celebrate for a little while,” she said.