The Long Beach State (LBSU) sand volleyball team competed in the first-ever collegiate national championship in the sport in Gulf Shores, Ala. The event is hosted by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
The 49ers faced Pepperdine University, Florida State, and the College of Charleston to determine the first national champion in sand volleyball, which is in its first season as an NCAA sport.
Fifteen schools participated in the very first season of sand volleyball, which concluded with this tournament, featuring four schools for the team championship and 16 two-player teams for the pairs title.
Two schools—Florida State and the College of Charleston—were selected from the South while one school—Pepperdine—was selected from the West. LBSU earned the at-large bid to the national championship in part on the strength of its 3-2 win over USC.
The team national championship operates in the same structure as the regular season, except the four teams will participate in duals in a double-elimination format. The 49ers began play on Saturday against Florida State as the Seminoles were seeded second while LBSU was seeded third. Undefeated Pepperdine was the top seed, and the College of Charleston is the fourth seed.
The 49ers also had two pairs teams participating in the pairs championship. Caitlin Ledoux and Tara Roenicke was among the favorites to take the pairs title. Teammates Haleigh Hampton and Libby Fontanilla were also among the 16 teams picked to play for the tandem title. Eight pairs from the teams participating in the team championship were selected, and eight wild card pairs were chosen from teams not invited to Gulf Shores for the team event.
The tournament began with pool play in the pairs competiton. Hampton and Fontanilla were placed in pool one, competing against Aurora Newgard and Brittney Tiegs of Florida State, Jane Croson and Ashley Lee of Hawai’i, and Emily Shelton and Kelly Kolich of the College of Charleston. Meanwhile, Ledoux and Roenicke were in pool three, matched with Lilia Frederick and Kim Hill of Pepperdine, Elyse Chubb and Lizzie Theesfeld of the College of Charleston, and Julie Bassett and Kaley Melville of Stetson.
CBS Sports Network televised portions of the competition in two hour-long specials.
As an emerging sport, sand volleyball is sponsored by the NCAA but does not have an NCAA championship. The AVCA is holding this tournament in place of the NCAA.