NCAA beach volleyball countdown: No. 8 LMU continues to build off historic WCC title

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p1440 Collegiate Challenge 11/23/2019-Loyola beach volleyball-Audrey Klemp
Loyola's Audrey Klemp dives for a tape serve at the P1440 Collegiate Challenge/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

When asked about the players to keep an eye on this year at Loyola Marymount, coach John Mayer didn’t hesitate for a second. He laughed, then said “Betsi Flint! You may have heard of her. We’re going to check in on her eligibility.”

As for the last bit, Mayer was joking. Flint, twice an All-American, has long since used her eligibility. Since, she’s been a full-time professional on the beach, winning her first event the summer after graduating, at AVP Cincinnati with Pepperdine alum Kelley Larsen. In between, Flint served as LMU’s volunteer assistant to Mayer.

This year, the volunteer tag has been taken off.

“We had one of our volleyball alums find out that I wasn’t getting paid and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it and she was like ‘Nope, we’re going to raise money to get you paid,’ ” said Flint, who volunteered for four seasons. “Our (athletic director) has been super awesome and supportive of our program so it definitely helps and it helps John out too to have some help.”

It is somewhat remarkable, what Mayer has been able to build at LMU with such a limited pool of resources. In LMU’s four seasons under Mayer, it has steadily improved from 6-17 to 15-14 to 22-14 to 27-11 and West Coast Conference champions. LMU has done this with 2.5 scholarships, 3.5 shy of the fully-funded programs against which it competes, and without a paid assistant coach.

“It’s incredible, even just the last four years, how committed our athletes are,” Flint said. “Obviously, John’s great and now he’s full-time coaching so he’s around more. I was there when beach volleyball first became a sport so it’s been cool to see its evolution. We won a WCC title on 2.5 scholarships and we’re competing at the highest level and not being fully funded. That was a big statement for us just showing our university what we can do so we’re excited to have some funding.”

The addition of Flint as a paid member of the staff is just the beginning. Next year, LMU’s scholarships will increase to four, and the year after that, it will be a fully-funded program, with all six scholarships available. Such are the rewards of quadrupling your wins and taking a conference title in the span of just four years.

“It’s fun to be a part of the growth and it just feels like you can’t really have a sense of where the peak of it is at,” Mayer said. “It’s just going to continue to grow and the level’s going to get higher.”

Loyola beach volleyball 2/12/2020-Emma Doud
Emma Doud digs at the WCC championships/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

The non-financial aspects of LMU look promising as well. The Lions are returning Italian sophomore Reka Orsi Toth, who had an excellent first season at LMU after transferring from Coastal Carolina. Mayer and Flint also have familiar faces in Emma Doud, a senior from Alameda, California (28-8 in 2019); Jessie Prichard, a senior from Corona, California (32-4); and Savannah Slattery, a senior from Malibu (23-13).

Adding onto that is a deep list of transfers who could immediate impact, including former Stetson starter Darby Dunn, Lacy Haddock (BYU), Ashley Stevens (Hawai’i), Selina Marolf (Texas A&M Corpus Christi), and Madison Ligon (LSU).

“I think we’re still on the way forward,” Mayer said. “We’re starting to get more support from the school, so I think we’re going to start seeing more scholarships the next year and the years after. But we’re starting to have success, so we’re able to bring in people like Darby, who wouldn’t have come to us. We got Maddie Ligon, who played at LSU who transferred to us.

“So we’ve been able to attract a lot of players to us, and even still, I look at last year and we had a lot of matches that I think we threw away and we had plenty of ups and downs last year and I know it ended really well with WCCs but we weren’t where I wanted to be at.”

But the Lions are undoubtedly moving forward, and the only evidence one would need is that Flint is still at LMU, getting paid to be there.

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