NCAA beach: FSU, LMU, Stetson win, Pac-12, Big West tourneys up next

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Loyola Marymount celebrates their upset of Pepperdine in the WCC tournament Saturday/George Davison photo

Now the focus turns to the Pac-12 and Big West as the NCAA readies for the National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship.

First up are the Pac-12 and Big West tournaments, followed by Sunday night’s selection show. It airs at 7 p.m. Eastern and the NCAA will announce which eight teams will gather in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 3-5: Three from the West, three from the East, and two at-larges.

Teams like third-ranked Florida State and No. 4 LSU have a long time between competitions. They’re sure to be two of the three teams from the East after finishing 1-2 in last weekend’s Coastal Collegiate Sports Association tournament, while No. 7 Stetson, which won the ASUN, and upset-minded No. 11 Loyola Marymount, which won the West Coast Conference, wait and hope.

The Pac-12 tourney at USC features top-ranked UCLA, No. 2 USC, No. 10 Cal, No. 13 Arizona, and No. 20 Stanford. Regardless of the outcomes, UCLA and USC are sure to be two of the top three teams from the West. 

Click here for the complete Pac-12 preview.

The Big West gathers at Zuma Beach in Malibu, normally Pepperdine’s home venue, and includes No. 5 Hawai’i, No. 8 Cal Poly, No. 12 Long Beach State, CSUN, UC Davis, Cal State Bakersfield, and Sacramento State. 

Hawai’i is almost assuredly going to be either one of the three from the West or get an at-large. Cal Poly hopes to strengthen its chances.

CCSA: Florida State (28-5) went 6-0 to win the tournament in Emerson, Ga. FSU defeated Southern Miss (5-0), College of Charleston (5-0), No. 18 TCU (5-0), No. 15 Georgia State (3-2), and LSU (3-0) .

“I am so proud and impressed of what the girls accomplished this weekend,” said FSU coach Brooke Niles, whose program has won all four CCSA titles since the league was created. “We came in with none of the same pairs as last year and dominated all tournament long. What we accomplished is a testament to the work we have put in all season long. I am excited to get back and see what the next few weeks bring us as we head into NCAAs.”

LSU (29-6) beat UNCW (5-0), TCU (5-0), No. 9 FIU (3-2) before losing to the Seminoles in the CCSA final for the second straight year.

“We have the ability to play great against great teams, but we don’t always decide to do that,” LSU coach Russell Brock said. “Sometimes we react instead of impose and I think that’s what cost us today.”

Still, Brock was impressed with LSU’s determination.

“They don’t care who they’re playing against or what the stage is,” said Brock. “They’re getting after it. Their ability to be consistent is inspiring and we have to use that as an example as what we can do moving forward.”

FIU (17-11) beat UAB (5-0), No. 17 Florida Atlantic, and No. 16 South Carolina (4-1), before losing to LSU in the semifinals.

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LMU’s Reka Orsi Toth plays a ball as the Pepperdine squad watches/George Davison photo

WCC: Loyola Marymount (27-11) scored a huge upset. First it beat No. 19 Saint Mary’s (4-1) on Friday before losing 3-2 to No. 6 Pepperdine. But on Saturday, LMU bounced back by not only beating the Waves 3-1, but beating them again in the final 3-2. 

It was the first time LMU had ever beaten Pepperdine and its first WCC crown. 

Loyola’s No. 4 pair Veronica Nederend and Emma Doud won all three of their matches against Pepperdine, including the 21-13, 17-21, 16-14 victory that clinched the championship.

Pepperdine (20-9) earlier beat San Francisco. Saint Mary’s was third, San Francisco fourth, followed by Pacific, Santa Clara and Portland.

ASUN: Stetson (29-8) won its third consecutive ASUN crown and fifth in program history. 

The Hatters defeated Florida Gulf Coast, overcoming a 2-1 deficit to Florida Gulf Coast, and were at one juncture three points away from elimination.

Stetson’s No. 2 and 3 pairs both came through to close out the 3-2 match. Stetson’s No. 2 of Darby Dunn and Sammee Thomas defeated FGCU’s Katherine Puisis and Karissa Rhoades 21-15, 19-21, 15-5, and No. 3 Rachel Noble and Ana Costa defeated Snowy Burnam and Kayla Whetstone 18-21,  21-19, 15-11.

“Florida Gulf Coast had a really emotional match before us with UNF, so they obviously came in with some good momentum,” Stetson coach Kristina Hernandez said. “We struggled at some points, but we also had some really big moments.  I thought the turning point for us was at the 3 seed and that third set.  That was just a really crucial match for us that really let us get to Darby and Sammee.”

FGCU finished second in the double-elimination format, while North Florida (20-14) finished third, Coastal Carolina (21-11) fourth, and Austin Peay (15-15) and North Alabama (10-12) tied for fifth.

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