FIU's only conference titleists over the last two academic years: women's soccer in 2011 -- they lost 1-0 in the Sun Belt final in 2012 and with almost everybody back should contend in Conference USA next year -- and 2013 women's golf.
So you can understand why the latter got a nice welcome from athletic department folks upon being dropped off by Super Shuttle at The Branch after winning this week's Sun Belt tournament.
"We really had the best team oging in and I was hoping we'd be able to play to what our capabilities were," FIU coach Joe Vogel said. "They were really able to do that. We've got a balanced team. My No. 5 player (Sophie Godley) finished in the top five in the tournament. When that happens, you're in pretty good shape. Meghan (MacLaren) won and Tania Tare finished right up there at the top as well."
Vogel pointed to Tare's Wednesday 69 as a key to FIU bringing home the title.
"We were not up by that much going into the backside. Then Tania whipped off three birdies in a row, actually birdied four of the last five. Three girls birdied No. 17. That pretty much sealed it right there."
MacLaren, who finished with medalist honors by two shots with a 4-under 212, said, "I thought the course was pretty tough because we played the practice round in hot conditions. The first round, I played solid and I started to think there were a few birdies out there. And I hit it well all week."
This team is truly Florida (freshman Jasmine Wade, junior Shelby Coyle) and International (the other five players on the roster).
"I always wanted to come to America and I spoke to a few different people and they got me in touch with Coach," said MacLaren, from Cambridge in the UK. "Right from when I started speaking to him, I knew this was a serious possibility. He made me feel really welcome."
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia named golf as a sport he felt FIU should be good in out of location, location, location. True, two-fifths of the PGA Tour lives in Palm Beach County and another two-fifths seemingly live between Orlando and the Florida-Georgia line, but golf's got the same problem as tennis, swimming and other sports where the best young talent flows past the collegiate level. The best young studs and studettes have the choice of playing for a paid education or playing to get paid. That cuts down the talent pool.
"It's hard to recruit. Any time you go after good palyers, there will be several other schools after them as well," Vogel said. "I like to have the advantage of being in South Florida with the weather, especially when I reach out to the girls in Europe or even South America. It's such a good fit for them. They can come over here and practice all the months we're here versus up north where they don't have the weather we do."
A 3-16 season ended Thursday with FIU getting booted from the Sun Belt tennis tournament by Arkansas-Little Rock. But freshman Carlotta Orlando was named to the All-Sun Belt team.
FIU's ranked No. 8 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association national poll that came out Thursday. The 6-5 Panthers have two losses to No. 1 and undefeated Pepperdine and one to No. 2 Long Beach State University. Six teams get invited to the national championships May 3-5 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.