Saturday, 13 April 2024

International Volleyball

Death Volley Invitational: LSU stuns USC, but then UCLA sweeps Tigers to go 4-0

Death Volley Invitational: LSU stuns USC, but then UCLA sweeps Tigers to go 4-0

LSU’s Ellie Shank goes all out against UCLA/LSU photo

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — As the sun set Saturday on the Death Volley Invitational, LSU coach Russell Brock considered the ups and downs his LSU beach volleyball team had experienced the previous two days.

The Tigers lost twice Friday, getting swept by No. 3 Stanford before losing 4-1 to No. 6 Cal.

And then Saturday, in a most unlikely upset, the No. 10 Sandy Tigs came away with a 3-2 victory over top-ranked USC, which hadn’t lost since February 24 during the first weekend of the NCAA season. 

But then, in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of sports, No. 2 UCLA put a punctuation mark on its weekend with a 5-0 sweep of LSU.

The weekend tally:

UCLA, likely to move up to No. 1 in this week’s AVCA coaches poll, and Stanford went 4-0.

USC went 3-1. Cal went 2-2, No. 4 TCU, No. 5 Florida State and LSU each went 1-3 and No. 17 Florida Atlantic finished 0-4.

It marked the strongest collection of ranked teams ever in an in-season college beach tournament and was streamed internationally on Volleyball World TV.

“First, I think the event was unreal,” Brock said. “When we built this place (the on-campus LSU Beach Volleyball Stadium) this is the kind of stuff we wanted to show off and show off our sport and show off this facility and invite the best teams in the country to come and play. I don’t think it could have gone better.”

“What a fabulous tournament,” USC coach Dain Blanton echoed.

Indeed, not only was the weather perfect, the event ran on time and the teams left here with a pretty good handle on themselves and the top of the college game with five weeks until the National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama, May 3-5.

“Would we have rather pulled out a couple on that first day and gone 3-1? Absolutely. Would we rather have pulled off that UCLA match? Absolutely. But these are good teams,” Brock said. 

“So if you don’t earn it, you’re not going to get it. But I think we made steps from a lineup perspective and we’re still not done. We still have work to do but we’re better than we were when we walked in here on Friday and started playing. That’s all you can really ask for.”

To Brock’s point, LSU toed a fine line between winning and losing in all of its matches.

Against Stanford, it lost on courts 1 and 2 in 3 sets. Against USC, the No. 1 pair of Gabi Bailey and Elli Shank lost in three and on the three courts it won — No. 2 Parker Bracken…

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