Fifth-seeded Loyola Marymount turned the bracket upside down Thursday as the NCAA’s National Beach Volleyball Championship got under way in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The Lions, in the NCAA postseason for the first time, not only knocked off fourth-seeded LSU in the morning, but in the afternoon shocked top-seeded UCLA, sending the Bruins to an unlikely elimination match Friday.
Third-seeded Florida State took second-seeded USC to the limit in the last match, but ultimately the Trojans prevailed.
When the sand cleared heading into Friday’s action, only LMU (31-6) and USC (28-4) were 2-0 and set to square off in the top of the bracket, while elimination matches were set for LSU (26-8) vs. Florida State, and Cal Poly (24-10) vs UCLA (29-4). All of Saturday’s and Sunday’s matches will be shown on ESPN. We have the schedule in the VolleyballMag.com TV and Streaming Listings.
LMU and UCLA won two matches apiece, so it all came down to the No. 5 when the Lions’ graduate-student Emma Doud and freshman Madi Firnett beat Rileigh Powers and Jaden Whitmarsh 15-21, 21-19, 15-10.
“It is what’s special about college beach. Some of the international players we’ve recruited have said ‘That’s what I want to be a part of.’ You feel alone at times in this sport, and to feel so connected and be a part of a team,” LMU coach john Mayer told VolleyballMag.com. His Lions, the West Coast Conference champions, won their 11th match in a row.
“Two of our teams lost, and lost pretty bad, but they felt every ounce of that win. It’s so cool to be a part of that … They heard the announcer make this announcement: ‘That makes it 2-2, coming down to the 5s court.’
“And they’re like ‘Oh my gosh’ and everyone runs over and they had to stay in the moment with all that going on.”
LMU had a similar chance against the Bruins three weeks ago. But UCLA won in five.
“We’ll take this one,” Mayer said. “We were super bummed about that one. It would have been a program changing win. We had them. It was so disappointing. But with all those moments, you learn from them, you take something, or you feel sorry for yourself. That’s the key: What do you take from the moment?”
For the moment, LMU is in the winners bracket.
In order of what happened Thursday: Top-seeded UCLA blanked No. 8 TCU 3-0, LMU beat fourth-seeded LSU 3-2, third-seeded Florida State swept sixth-seeded Stanford 3-0, and second-seeded USC beat No. 7 Cal Poly 3-0.
That set up elimination matches in which LSU sent TCU packing 4-1 and Cal Poly won its first NCAA match in program history as the Mustangs went the distance and then some to oust Stanford 3-2. TCU’s season ended 26-10, while Stanford finished 23-11 after its first NCAA appearance.
“We know both of those teams really well and we’ll have film,” said LSU coach Russell Brock, preparing for the USC-FSU loser. “We’ll have a good idea of what it’s going to take. We owe them both a lot and I’m sure they figure they owe us as well.
“No matter what, it will be an elimination match against two of the top four teams in the country. There’s a lot riding on that.”
Finally, in two winners-bracket matches, LMU and UCLA had their battle before USC escaped Florida State.
“I thought we started off strong against Stanford and that was a good win for us in the first match,” FSU coach Brooke Niles said.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match against USC since we battled with them in California and they have some new pairs and we have some new pairs. It could have gone either way and we just have to let it go and do some work tomorrow in the losers bracket.
“We cannot dwell on it. We know we have to play good teams to win a national championship. We are not expecting an easy route and we are not making it easy on ourselves right now but we will be ready tomorrow to compete.”
LMU 3, LSU 2
1. Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss (LSU) def. Iya Lindahl and Megan Rice (LMU) 21-16, 22-20
2. Reka Orsi Toth and Selina Marolf (LMU) def. Claire Coppola and Kelli Greene-Agnew 21-15, 21-12
3. Jessie Prichard and Savannah Slattery (LMU) def. Toni Rodriguez and Ashlyn Rasnick-Pope 21-14, 22-20
4. Jacinda Ramirez and Darby Dunn (LMU) def. Jess Lansman and Sydney Moore (LSU) 21-17, 21-15
5. Kahlee York and Olivia Ordonez (LSU) def. Emma Doud and Madi Firnett (LMU) 21-18, 21-17
Florida State 3, Stanford 0
1. Maddie Anderson/Alaina Chacon (FS) vs. Xolani Hodek/Sunny Villapando (STAN) 27-25, 13-10, unfinished
2. Keara Rutz/Torrey Van Winden (FS) def. Charlie Ekstrom/Kate Reilly (STAN) 21-13, 21-9
3. Molly McBain/Payton Caffrey (FS) def. Maddi Kriz/Maya Harvey (STAN) 21-13, 21-14
4. Sara Putt/Raelyn White (FS) def. Emmy Sharp/Amelia Smith (STAN) 21-15, 21-13
5. Jenna Johnson/Liz Waters-Leiga (FS) vs. Jordan McKinney/Maddie Dailey (STAN) 21-18, 17-17, unfinished
USC 3, Cal Poly 0
1. Tina Graudina/Megan Kraft (USC) def. Macy Gordon/Emily Sonny (CP) 21-13, 21-17
2. Sammy Slater/Julia Scoles (USC) def. Amy Ozee/Jayelin Lombard (CP) 21-12, 21-18
3. Haley Hallgren/Hailey Harward (USC) vs. Mariah Whalen/Tia Miric (CP) 21-17, 20-15, unfinished
4. Joy Dennis/Delaynie Maple (USC) vs. Sam Strah/Eleonore Johansen (CP) 21-19, 15-12, unfinished
5. Audrey Nourse/Nicole Nourse (USC) def. Vanessa Roscoe/Josie Ulrich (CP) 21-15, 21-14