International Volleyball

LSU upsets TCU as NCAA beach volleyball quarterfinals set

LSU upsets TCU as NCAA beach volleyball quarterfinals set

The first 8 hours and 30 minutes of a morning-to-late-afternoon opening-day marathon in the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship had plodded along with precious few highlights, much less high drama.

Then, in the last of nine duals, LSU played TCU, and fans on the white sand in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and a national TV audience on ESPNU had something to get excited about.

The natural geographic rivals and former conference antagonists staged a down-to-the-wire thriller that produced the lone upset on Friday. LSU (26-11), seeded 11th, took down sixth-seeded TCU (29-8) with the dominoes falling fast and furious over the last 10 minutes or so of a 3-2 nail-biter in which four of the matches were extended to the three-set limit.

โ€œToday was amazing,โ€ LSU coach Russell Brock said. โ€œIt was clear that we would need to play well and commit to battling for the full match. We got behind early, but the resolve and commitment were even more clear.

โ€œYou could feel the momentum change halfway through and the Tigers were making a move. I am so proud of how all our pairs fought.โ€

A vocal contingent of fans had made the roughly 4-hour trip from the Bayou Country to the Redneck Riviera, so the Tigers enjoyed almost a home-sand edge, and their players once again responded by pulling off a stunner.

The other biggest upset of the 2024 beach season occurred in Baton Rouge, where LSU knocked off three-time defending national champion and No. 1-ranked USC during its landmark Death Volley Invitational in late March.

But if LSU had shown the capability of reaching dizzying heights, the vertically-challenged Bayou Bengals also had a track record of inconsistency during a campaign with double-digit losses. Graduation and the transfer portal left Brock scrambling for blockers, and the taller starters on three of the five courts against TCU were 5-foot-10 Parker Bracken at the 2s, 5-9 Amber Haynes at the 4s and 5-10 Emily Meyer at the 5s.

After TCUโ€™s newly minted first-team AVCA All-America pair of lefty junior Hailey Hamlett and sophomore Anhelina Khmil took a 21-17, 21-18 victory over LSUโ€™s second-team All-Americans Gabi Bailey and Ellie Shank at the 1s, the three-set fun got started.

The Sandy Tigs got even when Hayes and feisty 5-foot-4 freshman Skylar Martin took the tiebreaker 15-9 over Morgan Williams and Tara Patton. The CCSA pair of the year, sophomore Bracken and 5-9 senior Reilly Allred, gave LSU a 2-1 advantage, winning the third set 16-4 over 6-foot Sutton MacTavish and…

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