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These two FIU athletics programs are surprising opponents in Conference USA

Brian Beard, FIU’s 5-10 senior point guard, is fourth in Conference USA in scoring (22.8), first in assists (7.8) and first in steals (3.7).
Brian Beard, FIU’s 5-10 senior point guard, is fourth in Conference USA in scoring (22.8), first in assists (7.8) and first in steals (3.7). FIU

It was an impressive week for the FIU men’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams.

The basketball team (5-1) won three of four games, including a 2-1 road trip in New York.

Playing up-tempo ball as promised by first-year coach Jeremy Ballard, FIU beat Milwaukee 86-83; lost at Fordham 83-77; beat Columbia 98-87; and beat Youngstown State 102-93.

Brian Beard, FIU’s 5-10 senior point guard, is fourth in Conference USA in scoring (22.8), first in assists (7.8) and first in steals (3.7). His career-high 36 points against Youngstown State on Sunday ranks as the best scoring output by a C-USA player so far this season.

Beard, who ranked fifth in the nation in steals last season, was named conference player of the week Monday. But FIU’s two biggest surprises so far have been new recruit Devon Andrews and former walk-on Osasumwen Osaghae.

Andrews, a 6-6 junior forward, ranks fifth in C-USA in field-goal percentage (68.3) and fourth in three-point percentage (57.1). Andrews, an Ohio native, signed with Kent State out of high school and then played in Kansas at Pratt Community College.

Osaghae, a 6-7, 250-pound junior, ranks first in the league in blocks (2.3), second in offensive rebounds (3.7) and eighth in total rebounds (8.0) despite not starting any games. He averaged just 3.3 points and 3.3 rebounds for FIU last season.

Meanwhile, the sixth-seeded volleyball team made it to within one win of automatically qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

FIU upset third-seeded Texas-San Antonio, 3-0, in the C-USA quarterfinals. FIU then beat Southern Miss 3-1 to reach the C-USA title match for the first time in school history.

Top-seeded Rice eliminated FIU 3-0, but two Panthers players made the all-tournament team: senior outside hitter Margherita Bianchin of Italy and freshman setter Abbie Hughes from Ohio.

Bianchin also made second-team All-C-USA while Hughes made the league’s All-Freshman team.

FIU libero Lina Bernier, a junior from Puerto Rico, and Bianchin made the league’s All-Academic team. Bernier has a 3.80 GPA in biomechanical engineering. Bianchin has a 3.87 GPA in international relations.

THIS AND THAT

FIU men’s soccer coach Kevin Nylen said he will sign four or perhaps five recruits for next season. Two have already been announced, including one with an incredibly long name: left back A.J. Cousins of Fort Myers and Andoni Garrogerricaechebarria, a forward/midfielder from Davie United.

FIU’s softball team has signed six recruits for the Class of 2019, including two South Floridians in Doral Academy middle infielder Amelia Varela and Western’s defensive-minded catcher Johanna Urso.

Interim coach Heather Gelbard also signed Maryland third baseman Jordyn Reese and center fielder Alexis Ross, a Jacksonville native. “Ross is one of the fastest kids in the state,” Gelbard said.

Gelbhard seemed to save her highest praise for California first baseman/pitcher Madison Mendez. Gelbhard said she expects the power-hitting and power-pitching Mendez “to make an immediate impact.”

The sixth and final recruit in this class is Clearwater middle infielder Jocelyn Alonso, who “could develop into a middle-order hitter for us,” Gelbhard said.





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