NCAA beach: Conference tournaments on tap as postseason play begins

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LSU Tiger Maddie Ligon swings as LSU goes 4-0 this weekend/Chris Parent, LSU photo

Things will begin to heat up as NCAA beach volleyball heads into the postseason, but the sport was relatively quiet last week.

Three conference tournaments begin this week — the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association, West Coast Conference, and ASUN — as teams jockey for NCAA bids.

It all points to the eight-team NCAA Championship May 3-5 in Gulf Shores, Ala. The NCAA beach volleyball committee will announce the field on NCAA.com on April 28 when it chooses three teams from the East, three from the West and two at-larges.

If the latest AVCA Collegiate Beach Poll is any indication, there won’t be too many surprises. Once again the top 20 stayed the same with only minor movement. For that matter, Nos. 1 through 7 were identical: UCLA, USC, Florida State, LSU, Pepperdine, Hawai’i and Cal Poly.

Stetson, up to two spots to No. 8, FIU and Long Beach State round out the top 10. Clearly when the NCAA selection is announced a West Coast team or two will be left wanting.

Nos. 14 through 20 stayed exactly the same.

Click here for the complete AVCA beach poll.

Of note, UCLA (26-1) got 25 first-place votes and USC (22-4), the only team to beat the Bruins, got the other two votes.

UCLA was off last week, but will play host to Grand Canyon and Long Beach State on Saturday.

USC beat Long Beach 5-0 and Pepperdine 4-1 last Thursday, which gave gave USC’s Abril Bustamante and Tina Graudina 55 career victories, fourth in program history. The Trojans are home Thursday for Grand Canyon and Cal Poly.

Florida State (23-5) went to TCU and swept UAB and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and beat the Horned Frogs 4-1. LSU (25-5) hosted the Battle on the Bayou and went 4-0, sweeping Nicholls State, New Orleans and Springhill and beating ULM (Louisiana-Monroe) 4-1.

Both FSU and LSU will compete in Friday’s CCSA tournament in Emerson, Ga. FSU beat LSU in last year’s final. FIU is also in the field at the Lakepoint Sports Complex in Emerson, Ga. that includes UAB, Charleston, Florida Atlantic, No. 16 Georgia State, UNCW, No. 13 South Carolina, Southern Mississippi, No.18 TCU, and Tulane.

Pepperdine (18-7) was home and beat both Cal Poly and Cal 4-1. Pepperdine will play in the WCC Championships in Santa Monica on Friday. The rest of the field includes No. 14 Loyola Marymount, Pacific, Portland, USF, Santa Clara and No. 19 Saint Mary’s.

Hawai’i (24-7) was busy last week. It was home for the First Foundation Queen’s Cup and beat San Jose State (twice by 5-0 scores), Washington (5-0), and No. 14 Loyola Marymount (twice by 3-2 scores). Hawai’i’s Julia Scoles earned the Most Outstanding Player award, with partner Ari Homayun receiving the Aloha Spirit award. The Sandbows also defeated Washington 5-0 Monday in a separate dual.

Hawai’i will get some reps Saturday in its alumnae match as a tune-up for the Big West Conference tournament April 26-27.

Cal Poly (19-8) lost to Pepperdine (4-1) and beat Cal (3-2). After playing USC on Thursday, the Mustangs play No. 11 Cal and No. 20 Stanford in Palo Alto on Saturday. The Big West tournament is April 26. 

Stetson (26-8) pulled a trio of wins out of its hat, so to speak, as the Hatters recorded three 3-2 victories, beating FIU (14-10) and No. 17 Florida Atlantic (11-13) twice Friday in Boca Raton.

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Stetson is up two spots to No. 8 as the Hatters won a trio of 3-2 matches/Stetson photo

Stetson, which has won 10 duals in a row, came from behind in all three matches. The No. 1 pair of Sunniva Helland-Hansen and Carly Perales went 3-0 and clinched two of the duals. Stetson, located in Deland, Fla., is the host for the ASUN tournament starting Thursday. The tourney includes Coastal Carolina, FGCU, Jacksonville, Mercer, and UNF.

Long Beach State (17-7), which lost to USC and Cal last week, plays host to No. 19 Saint Mary’s on Tuesday before heading to L.A. to play GCU and UCLA on Saturday.

This week the Beach has three duals scheduled, with Saint Mary’s Tuesday at home, followed by Grand Canyon and UCLA Saturday in Los Angeles.

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