The Long Beach State (LBSU) sand volleyball team has been selected to compete in the first-ever collegiate national championship in the sport this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (April 27-29) in Gulf Shores, Ala. The event is hosted by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
The 49ers will face 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 concludes 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 last Saturday over USC.
The team national championship will operate in the same structure as the regular season, except the four teams will participate in duals in a double-elimination format. The 49ers will begin 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 will also have two pairs teams participating in the pairs championship. Caitlin Ledoux and Tara Roenicke will be among the favorites to take the pairs title. Teammates Haleigh Hampton and Libby Fontanilla are 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 will begin on Friday with pool play in the pairs competiton. Hampton and Fontanilla have been 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 will be 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.
Results from Friday’s action will determine seeding for a 16-team, single elimination tournament to be held on Sunday to determine a pairs national championship.
CBS Sports Network will televise portions of the competition in two hour-long specials. Part one of their coverage will air beginning on Wednesday, June 6, at 6 p.m. (PST), and part two will begin airing on Wednesday, June 13, at 6 p.m. (PST).
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.