The 2022 NCAA Beach Volleyball season and, by extension, the beach volleyball season as a whole, saw its first serves this past weekend. And it saw many of them. Thousands of points and hundreds of sets were played across the country. There were upsets but nothing seismic, quality wins but nothing Earth-moving. There was excellent play and unquestionably some February nerves all around.
Most importantly: There was beach volleyball being played.
Team of the Week: Florida State
Coach Brooke Niles is not one to schedule any tuneups to open the season, any light matches in which her Seminoles can simply get any nervousness out of their system before turning to the more difficult programs where they’ll need to be crisp. No, Niles annually schedules a season-opening tournament dubbed the FSU Beach Bash, hauling in an excellent crop of teams against whom the Noles begin their year. It can be either an early proving ground or an eye-opener as to what Florida State needs to improve. This weekend proved to be the former.
Florida State went 4-0 at its home tournament, sweeping UAB, No. 10 Cal Poly — note: the rankings used in these stories will be the CollegeBeachVB.com rankings, not the AVCA — and Division II power Tampa, while defeating No. 12 Florida Atlantic 4-1. And even that one loss came in an early candidate for the match of the year, as Brook Bauer and Maddie Anderson fell in a thriller to Erica Brok and Mackenzie Morris, 22-20, 19-21, 26-28.
In 20 total matches throughout the weekend, the Seminoles dropped just three sets in all. A promising start to the East Region’s perennial power.
Pair of the Week: TCU’s Daniela Alvarez, Tania Moreno
TCU entered the season with as much hype as any in the country, with the exception of USC, who is in a land of its own. While a major factor behind that is the talent hauled in via the transfer portal and Spain, its court one duo of Daniela Alvarez and Tania Moreno will be the linchpin for the Horned Frogs this season.
They played four solid teams — there are no bad teams on court one in Division I beach volleyball — in Tallahassee this weekend and swept all four, while only a single set came within two points, against UAB’s Rachel Tam and Adriana Pereira.
Most Noteworthy Result: Tampa upsets Cal Poly
What USC has been in NCAA beach volleyball history — dominant, historic, the program most everyone wants to beat — Tampa is becoming to Division II, otherwise known as “Small Colleges” in beach volleyball parlance. The Spartans have never had a losing season, and in just their second year in existence, in 2019, they won the AVCA Small College Championships and didn’t lose a single match in the process. After COVID delayed their shot at winning another in 2020, they backed it up by defending their title in 2021.
So while Tampa’s 3-2 upset victory over Cal Poly in Tallahassee might look like a massive upset to some who simply write Tampa off as a Small College wading in the deep waters of Division I, it would be an incorrect assumption. But it still is noteworthy that Tampa topped the Mustangs, the first time the Spartans have ever beaten Poly.
Biggest storylines of the weekend
UCLA wins Duke Kahanamoku Classic
Bruins coach Stein Metzger is a Hawai’ian native, raised in Honolulu. Whenever he can take his UCLA team back to the Island, he does, and is an annual member of the Duke Kahanamoku Classic, hosted by the University of Hawai’i at Queen’s Beach.
The second-ranked Bruins made the most of their trip, winning all five matches, including ranked victories over No. 7 Stanford and No. 11 Hawai’i, to claim the championship. Both Sophie Moore and Natalie Myszkowski on court four and Devon Newberry and Jaden Whitmarsh on court three went undefeated on the weekend for the Bruins.
Megan Muret continues as steady force on 4 and 5
There is a certain appreciation that must go out to players who consistently win and win and win some more on the lower courts. While the talent on courts one and two get much of the adulation from fans and media, each win, regardless of the number on the court, is still worth the same: One point. And few have won more points for their teams than Megan Muret. In four years at UCLA — including the COVID-shortened season of 2020 — Muret won 79 matches and lost just 20, playing mostly on courts 4 and 5. Now at TCU, Muret is doing much of the same.
She went 4-0 this weekend, three of which came with Rochelle Scott, the final with Tara Patton. She didn’t drop a single set, and only Southern Mississippi’s Taylor Pierce and Reagan Sandin managed to come close, in a 21-16, 22-20 victory .
Tulane upsets Georgia State
The first upset of the season was landed by the Tulane Green Wave. In the Wave’s first match of 2022, it stunned No. 16 Georgia State, 3-2, using a pair of sweeps on courts 3 and 5 and a three-set victory on court 1. In the AVCA pre-season polls, the Wave received just two votes.
After a 3-1 weekend, in which its only loss came to LSU, expect to see Tulane in the top 20.
LSU’s new-look lineup goes 4-0
Turnover shmurnover. That’s essentially what LSU coach Russell Brock said this off-season when discussing the fact that he had just two starters coming back from his historically excellent 2021 team. While the Tigers didn’t see any major powers in their opening weekend, they still finished 4-0, claiming wins over No. 16 Georgia State, Tulane, Spring Hill, and Nicholls State.
Kylie Deberg was fantastic in her beach debut. The transfer from Missouri finished the weekend 4-0 blocking for freshman Parker Bracken, winning eight straight sets. Holly Carlton, too, was strong in her first weekend on the sand. The 6-foot-7 transfer from Florida went 4-0 with sophomore Reilly Allred and were tested twice in three-setters against Georgia State and Tulane. Sophomores Sierra Caffo and Ellie Shank also finished the weekend undefeated for LSU.
Is Long Beach the strongest 0-2 team on the beach?
Records can be deceiving, and there are none more deceiving than Long Beach’s winless opening weekend. The Niners dropped both of their matches, to No. 1 USC and No. 8 Cal, but if you look at the finer details, you’d be impressed by both.
Holland Jackson and Nicci Reinking — keep an eye on this team — took USC’s Megan Kraft and Sammy Slater to three, and on court 5, Christine Deroos and Sophie Major fell 13-15 to Caroline Schafer and Sunny Villapando. On court 4, Claire Newlander and Jillian Rodriguez pushed Audrey and Nicole Nourse, 20-22, in the second set.
Two days later, against Cal, the Niners nearly landed an upset victory, losing 2-3 to the eighth-ranked Bears, a match that came down to a 17-15 third set on court 2. Ainsley Radell and Ava Mann sealed a huge win for Cal in holding on to defeat Sydney Stevens and Alice Pratesi, 15-21, 21-18, 17-15.
This week in NCAA Beach Volleyball
Long Beach State is home for LMU and Stetson
TCU plays host to Central Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia State, South Carolina
LSU Tiger Beach Challenge, featuring, namely, LMU
USC is home for Cal Poly, UCLA, Stanford, and Long Beach State
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