GULF SHORES, Alabama — The seeding ultimately held form in seven of the eight first-round matches Wednesday at the NCAA’s National Collegiate Beach Championship.
But there were some nail-biters throughout the bright sunny day, one in which the wind — notorious at times here — never was a factor.
In the last match of the day, 10th-seeded Georgia State knocked out seventh-seeded Grand Canyon 3-2. And three other higher seeds barely made it through the single-elimination first round, with all winning 3-2 — No. 3 UCLA got past No. 14 Stetson, No. 5 Florida State escaped No. 12 Cal Poly, and No. 6 LSU fended off No. 11 Cal.
No. 1 seed USC, the odds-on favorite, No. 2 TCU, No. 4 Loyola Marymount and No. 8 Florida Atlantic all won 3-0. And although No. 8 FAU held its seed by ousting No. 9 Stanford, there was more to that victory than meets the eye. Later Thursday, Volleyballmag.com will post a photo gallery of some great shots by Stephen Burns and Tim Britt.
With eight teams one-and-done, the format shifts to double elimination with eight matches Friday. They all will be shown on ESPNU.
Action starts at 9 a.m. Central with USC (33-1) facing FAU (23-10), followed by FSU (29-9) vs. LMU (30-7), UCLA (32-7) vs. LSU (31-10), and Georgia State (27-11) vs. TCU (39-3).
In the second round, the four winners will face off, and so will the four losers, with two teams going home after Friday. The two elimination-bracket survivors have a tough road, of course. Click here for the NCAA bracket.
The outliers are FAU and now Georgia State. As noted in our preview story, the top six teams have a combined 37 losses, almost exclusively to each other. A ray of hope for FAU? One of those aforementioned 37 defeats was when FAU beat LSU 3-2 on March 20. And Georgia State has won 13 duals in a row. Its last loss was April 2, 3-1 to Florida State.
Things got going Wednesday in the first year of a 16-team field with FAU, in its first NCAA tourney, bouncing Stanford. The Sandy Owls, at-large entrants from Conference USA, got wins at No. 2 from Marketa Svozilova and Courtney Moon, at No. 4 from Christine Jarman and Jillienne Cangelosi, and at No. 5 from Mica Allison and Abby Jackson.
This means a lot,” assistant coach Steve Grotowski of FAU said. “We’ve been fighting all year, and there was a lot of adversity, which I’m sure a lot of teams have, but this feels really good.”
Grotowski handled the head-coaching chores for his wife, head coach Capri Grotowski. She has been battling cancer for eight years and stayed back at the team hotel Wednesday.
“She’s a fighter and gives these girls strength,” Steve said.
Stanford, an at-large from the Pac-12, finished 24-12, with the most wins in program history.
Click here for the FAU recap and boxscore.
LSU of the CCSA got all it could handle from Cal of the Pac-12 in a match between at-large teams.
“We needed this match to be tested like this in this format to gain some confidence,” LSU coach Russell Brock said.
The match was tied 2-2 when LSU won at No. 5, with Sierra Caffo and Ashlyn Rasnick-Pople defeating Natalie Martin and Alex Young-Gomez 22-24, 21-17, 15-6. Cal finished 26-14.
Click here for the LSU recap and boxscore.
WCC-champion Loyola Marymount made short work of Big West at-large Hawai’i, winning 2-0 on courts 1, 4 and 5. Hawai’i’ finished 24-17.
Click here for the LMU recap and boxscore.
Defending-champion USC of the Pac-12 sent No. 16-seeded UT Martin (17-9), the Ohio Valley Conference winner making its first NCAA appearance, packing with a quick sweep. USC, which opened the season with a loss to UCLA and has won 32 in a row since, won at Nos. 1, 2 and 3. None of the Skyhawks pairs scored more than 13 points in a set.
Click here for the USC recap and boxscore.
There was another quick sweep when TCU, an at-large from the CCSA, took care of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (21-13) of the Southland Conference. It was the first NCAA win ever for the Horned Frogs.
Click here for the TCU recap.
Yet another sweep seemed to be on tap next, but ASUN-champion Stetson was having none of it. The Hatters won the first set in four of the five matches with the Pac-12’s UCLA, which was teetering on the edge of being on the wrong end of a huge upset.
Stetson scored wins at Nos. 4 and 5, victories by Audrey Gauthier and Colene Hamilton and Noelle Weintraub and Karin Zolnercikova, respectively. UCLA won at No. 1 with Lexi Denaburg and Abby Van Winkle and at No. 3 with Lea Monkhouse and Jessie Smith.
So it came down to No. 2, where Jaden Whitmarsh and Devon Newberry took a 19-21, 21-16, 15-13 victory over Stetson’s Anete Name and Carolina Ferraris. There were ties at 10, 11 and 12. UCLA took a 14-12 lead, Stetson scored, and then a Newberry kill ended it.
“We certainly know what it feels to be in crunch time here now,” UCLA coach Stein Metzger said. “We weren’t expecting it to happen this early, but they played really well. They played a great match against us.
“To be honest, I feel lucky that we pulled it out but that’s what we were prepared for. We prepare for crunch time, and you’re going to fall to the level of your training and this team trains well. That helped us a lot.”
Stetson ended its season 23-17. The last time the Hatters were here, in 2019, they were seeded No. 8 and stunned top-seeded USC in the first round.
“I think they felt really prepared,” Stetson coach Kristina Hernandez said. “It’s tough, because we were up 10-8 (in the third set on court 2), and we didn’t unravel but lost some opportunities that we had. They’re an amazing team, and they capitalized on that and pulled away.
“We can’t be disappointed with the effort. I thought we could pull it off again (like in 2019). But they’re all freshmen and sophomores, so we’ll be back.”
Click here for the UCLA recap and boxscore.
CCSA-champion Florida State also lived on the edge against Big West-champion Cal Poly as it got into late afternoon. FSU won at No. 4 with Morgan Chacon and Jordan Polo and at No 2 with Alaina Chacon and Madison Fitzpatrick, but Cal Poly, which ended its season 23-17, won at No. 1 with Tia Miric and Ella Conner and at No. 5 with Josie Ulrich and Vanessa Roscoe.
That led to what turned into an epic battle at No. 3. FSU’s Anna Long and Kate Privett — down 12-10 in the third before rallying — eventually beat Addison Hermstad and Peyton Dueck 25-23, 21-16, 15-13.
Click here for the FSU recap and boxscore.
Finally, Georgia State, the Conference USA champion, got the program’s first NCAA victory when it upset Grand Canyon, an independent at-large. Earlier this season, the Panthers lost to GCU on the same beach in March 4-1. This time, it came down to No. 3, where Eden Hawes and Maddy Delmonte rallied to beat Teagan DeFalco and Samaya Morin 10-21, 21-18, 15-11.
Click here for the Georgia State recap.
Previously on the sand …
In the first four matches Friday, all the teams have played each other this season.
USC swept FAU at Stetson on March 12.
LMU beat Florida State 3-2 on April 16 at Cal Poly.
UCLA beat LSU 4-1 here March 20 and again April 3, this time 3-2 on Manhattan Beach at the UCLA Invitational.
TCU beat Georgia State 4-1 on March 5 at TCU’s Horned Frog Challenge.
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