Last week NCAA college beach volleyball was focused on East meets West, with Florida State and LSU visiting USC and UCLA. 

UCLA finished the weekend 4-0, USC split both at 2-2, with FSU and LSU both going 1-3. It’s difficult to draw conclusions, with the contests on the West’s home sand, and USC’s Julia Scoles held out due to injury, but let’s dive into the numbers. Specifically, let’s look at the points scored, because match scores can be deceiving.

Sure, UCLA scored the most points (921, while USC had 908, LSU 885, and FSU 870). What’s clear is that there’s not a lot of distance between the teams. Looking at the points ratio (points won/opponents points won) they’re very close. UCLA led with 1.05, USC a tick behind at 1.04, with LSU at .97 and FSU at .95.

The numbers tell us that USC scored points at about the same rate as UCLA, with LSU and FSU a shade behind.

Combine that with a neutral site like Gulf Shores, Alabama, a bit of wind, and a dangerous field, and we have the recipe for an exciting national championship the second weekend of May.

Here’s our weekly run-down on the AVCA top 10, the latest AVCA poll, undefeated pairs, and notes from around the nation.

Jacqeline Quade/Mark Rigney

No. 1 UCLA (15-1)
UCLA won all its duals against LSU (4-1, 3-2) and Florida State (4-1, 3-2).

UCLA’s No. 3 pair of Devon Newberry and Lindsey Sparks and No. 5 Rileigh Powers and Jaden Whitmarsh won all their matches.

“What I learned about UCLA is that we’re able to hang in there and dig deep in tough matches. There’s all kinds of ways of winning,” UCLA coach Stein Metzger said.

“Sometimes we win pretty, sometimes we don’t feel great and are able to pull it out and win. I thought we really showed that in our final match when we were down 0-2 to FSU.

“We lost in the fours, which is typically our strength, and the one’s, three’s, and five’s all came up big in those matches. They were hard-fought matches, and we were able to pull out all three. 

“That shows a lot of heart and a lot of grit in this team, and that’s a good sign as we get into the last month of the season.” 

Next up: UCLA participates in the Pac-12 North invitational at GCU Beach Volleyball Stadium, facing Arizona State and No. 7 Stanford Saturday, followed by Washington and No. 12 Arizona Sunday.

College Beach Volleyball 4/5/2021-Delaynie Maple-USC beach volleyball
Delaynie Maple/Ed Chan,

No. 2 USC (14-2)
USC spoiled Florida State’s undefeated record Saturday (4-1) and then FSU returned the favor in the afternoon, defeating the Trojans 3-2. The split was a familiar theme for USC this weekend, splitting 3-2 matches against LSU on Sunday.

No. 5 Audrey and Nicole Nourse continued undefeated throughout the weekend, while No. 2 Hailey Harward and Megan Kraft and No. 4 Joy Dennis and Delaynie Maple went 3-1. 

“We’ve got some really good footage and we saw some great things and some things we need to work on,” USC coach Dain Blanton said. “That was exactly the point. That’s why we scheduled this in early April, so we could get a look at the competition and also give ourselves a really good test.

“I do think that there are some really dangerous teams out there. Anyone can strike at one time, but I think the teams this weekend are really strong and playing at a high level, at the top tier.”

Next up: USC goes to Phoenix for the Pac-12 North Invitational, with scheduled duals against No. 11 Cal, Washington, No. 7 Stanford and Arizona State.

Kate Privett/Mark Rigney

No. 3 FSU (22-3)
Florida State coach Brooke Niles got her 50th win Saturday against USC. The Noles’ strength came at the No. 2 and 3 pairs, with Torrey Van Winden and Keara Rutz and Sara Putt and Maddie Anderson both finishing 3-1 in Los Angeles.

“I am so proud of our team and our resiliency,” Niles said. “We came out this morning and didn’t play like ourselves. We were tentative and not focused on our game plans. I’m so proud of how we adjusted after a quick turnaround, especially after being down 0-2 again. We kept fighting and clawing our way to each point.

“We have to go back and work on some things, and the NCAA is a neutral playing ground, but this was a really good trip.”

Next up: Florida State hosts the Unconquered Invitational, with duals against No. 15 FIU, No. 17 Stetson (twice) and UNF.

Sara Putt/Ed Chan,

No. 4 LSU (17-5)
LSU lost both duals to UCLA Saturday before splitting with USC Sunday.

LSU’s Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss established themselves as the top pair in the nation, defeating the top USC and UCLA pairs twice. 

“It was great fun, and a great challenge. Today was a little bit better than yesterday,” Brock said Sunday.

“Coming into it, we knew that traditionally that’s where the power in the sport of beach volleyball has been, USC was stronger this year, and clearly, there will be tight matches across the board in every round. That’s what we expected, that every match on every court was going to be tight, with really good volleyball played at a high level. 

Playing against the very best has helped Brock identify areas of improvement for next month of practice.

“Each pair, and even individuals within pairs have certain things that this weekend revealed, some need to be more comfortable in crunch time, some people need to be better in serve receive, some people need to trust their serves more, be more aggressive, maybe be a little more creative in the systems we’re running,” Brock said. 

“I think across the board, there’s improvement to be made, and every weekend, you’ll see things that need to be adjusted. This weekend was extra-important for that feedback because you’re playing against the teams that matter most in the landscape of our sport.“

Next up: LSU hosts the Battle on the Bayou April 9 and 10, facing Spring Hill and Central Arkansas Friday, New Orleans, Texas A&M – Kingsville, and ULM Saturday.

No. 5 Loyola Marymount (16-2)
LMU was off after its duals against Vanguard and CSUN were canceled. The Lions head to Santa Cruz for the WCC Mid-Season Invitational Thursday for duals against Portland, Pacific, and a third dual TBD.

No. 6 Cal Poly (14-4)
The Mustangs had a busy week, scoring six wins and one loss. Poly defeated Arizona (3-2), CSU Bakersfield (5-0), UC Davis (5-0), No. 16 Long Beach State (4-1), CSUN (5-0), No. 14 Hawai’i (3-2) and No. 11 Cal (3-2). The lone loss was to No. 7 Stanford (3-2), with the Cardinal’s Emmy Sharp and Amelia Smith edging Poly’s Hannah Rogers and Piper Naess 18-21, 21-16, 15-13 at the No. 5 spot.

Next up: Cal Poly goes to Hawai’i for three duals Friday and Saturday, followed by a exhibition pairs tournament Sunday.

No. 7 (tie) TCU (17-4)
TCU had a rest week, but hosts Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tulane, Boise State, and Houston Baptist Friday and Saturday.

No. 7 (tie) Stanford (14-3)
Stanford breaks into the top 10 this week after a trio of 3-2 wins against Saint Mary’s, Cal Poly and Cal. The Cardinal’s 13-win streak is a program record, the Cardinal’s last loss a 3-2 loss to UCLA February 27.

The Saint Mary’s win was clinched by Xolani Hodel and Kate Reilly (21-9, 21-17), the Cal Poly win clinched by Emmy Sharp and Amelia Smith (21-18, 16-21, 15-13), and the Cal win by Charlie Ekstrom and Sunny Villapando (21-14, 30-28).

Next up: Stanford participates in the Pac-12 North Invitational in Phoenix, facing No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 USC, No. 11 Cal and No. 12 Arizona.

No. 9 Grand Canyon (12-5)
Grand Canyon added three sweeps and one loss to its ledger at the Arizona Invitational. The Lopes swept UC Davis, Colorado Mesa, and No. 12 Arizona before taking a 3-2 loss to No.10 Pepperdine.

Against Arizona, GCU was forced to three sets on courts one, two, and five. No. 1 Bella Bauman and Anaya Evans won 19-21, 21-19, 15-12, No. 5 Katie Sarber and Natalie Honzovicoa 21-16, 16-21, 15-13, and Allison Hansen and Teagan DeFalco 19-21, 21-14, 15-11.

Pepperdine’s strength at the top three pairs was too much for GCU, with No. 1 Bella Vauman and Anaya Evans (21-18, 21-18), No. 2 Allison Hansen and Teagan DeFalco (21-18, 21-15), and No. 3 Madi Relax and Taylor Jarzombek (21-16, 21-10) failing to secure Lopes points.

Next up: Grand Canyon travels to CSUN to face No. 16 Long Beach and CSUN twice April 9-10.

No. 10 Pepperdine (7-12)
The Waves attended the Arizona Invitational, with wins over Colorado Mesa (5-0), Missouri State (5-0), and No. 9 Grand Canyon (3-2) before a 4-1 loss to host No. 12 Arizona. Pepperdine’s Melanie Paul and Simone Priebe clinched the win over GCU’s Allison Hansen and Teagan DeFalco 21-18, 21-15, while Alexis Filippone and Brook Bauer earned the Waves’ only point against Arizona’s Alana Rennie and Alex Parkhurst 21-14, 21-12.

Next up: Pepperdine continues its road trip at No. 16 Long Beach State April 8 and UC Davis April 10.

The sixth week of the AVCA Top 20 saw some minor shuffling. UCLA took the top spot with nine first-place votes, followed by USC with six first place votes. Florida State dropped a spot to No. 3 with one first-place vote, with LSU staying at No. 4.

Loyola Marymount and Cal Poly swapped spots at No. 5 and 6.

Stanford made the biggest jump, vaulting to a tie for No. 7 with TCU from No. 12.

Grand Canyon edged up a spot to No. 9.

No. 8 Pepperdine, No. 9 Cal, and No. 13 FAU both dropped two spots, while No. 14 Hawai’i and No. 17 Stetson advanced two spots. No. 15 FIU, No. 16 Long Beach State, No. 18 South Carolina and No. 19 Georgia State all lost one spot, while Florida Gulf Coast stayed steady at No. 20. North Florida, Tulane, and Coastal Carolina all received votes.

Lindsey Sparks, Devon Newberry/Ed Chan,

Pairs of the Week
UCLA’s Devon Newberry and Lindsey Sparks are the AVCA Pair of the Week after their 4-0 weekend against Florida State and LSU. They have a 9-0 record on court three, 4-1 on court two.

CCSA — Florida State’s Sara Putt and Maddie Anderson took the March 31 award after going 4-0 against four ranked teams, TCU, South Carolina, Stetson and Georgia State.

Big West — Long beach State’s Mari Molina and Tyler Spriggs  got three key wins over Hawai’i this weekend at the No. 1 pairing. They are a team-best 12-2 this year, on a five-match win streak.

Kristen Nuss/Mark Rigney

Half of last week’s undefeated pairs took losses this week. Still standing are LSU’s Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth (22-0) at the top slot, No. 4’s Allanis Navas and Paula Hoffman of GCU (12-0) and No. 5’s Nicole Nourse and Audrey Nouse of USC (16-0).

Nuss and Kloth went 4-0 in Los Angeles, which included a Saturday morning win over UCLA’s Lexy Denaburg and Savvy Simo 21-14, 23-25, 27-25. 

In the afternoon, Nuss was taken to her physical limits as she put away the match point attack and then dropped to the sand with cramps and had to be helped off the court.

Nuss showed her warrior mentality Sunday, returning to take wins from USC’s Tina Graudina and Sammy Slater, including a 21-12, 19-21, 15-13 morning match.

GCU’s Navas and Hoffman added two victories this week, with wins over Colorado Mesa and Arizona.

USC’s Audrey and Nicole Nourse added four wins to their totals, spoiling FSU’s Jenna Johnson and Kate Privett’s undefeated record and beating LSU’s Olivia Ordonez and Kahlee York twice. 

Around the Nation
Sacramento State’s beach volleyball program will debut April 11 against Pacific for a pair of duals.

CSUN (9-9) went 4-0 last weekend, sweeping Vanguard, Pacific, and Saint Katherine, defeating Concordia Irvine 3-2. The Concordia win avenges an earlier 3-2 loss March 12.

Long Beach State’s (11-9) head coach Mike Campbell won his 100th career Big West match April 3 against Hawai’i. Campbell has served the 49ers since 2015.

Coastal Carolina (16-4) continued its nine-match win streak this week with wins over Mercer (4-1) and Erskine (5-0).

Florida International (19-5) went five for six this weekend at its Surf and Turf Invitational, with two sweeps (Florida Memorial and St. Thomas), a trio of 3-2 wins (Tampa, Tulane, Florida Gulf Coast) and a 3-2 loss to Florida Atlantic.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (10-9) ran the table at the Conni & Jay Wise Islander Classic, besting Stephen F. Austin (5-0), Utah (5-0), Houston Baptist (4-1) and Texas A&M-Kingsville (4-1)

Stetson (16-9) went 3-0 against Georgia State (3-2), College of Charleston (5-0) and Tusculum (5-0).

Tulane (16-10) conquered the Southern Miss tournament, defeating three CCSA foes (UAB 3-2), ULM (4-1) and Southern Miss (4-1) as well as Spring Hill (5-0).

North Florida escaped with a quad of 3-2 wins at the FAU Sandy Owls Invite, edging Palm Beach Atlantic, FAU, FGCU, and Tampa. The Ospreys are on a six-win streak.

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