Tuesday, 30 May 2023

International Volleyball

“March Madness mentality” as new one-and-done NCAA Beach Championship gets underway

"March Madness mentality" as new one-and-done NCAA Beach Championship gets underway

Ellie Shank gets the word during practice Thursday that she and LSU teammate Kylie Deberg are All-Americans. The Tigers, from left, Brooke Blumenreich, Shank, assistant coach Cati Leak, Reilly Allred and Madison Meyers/Sierra Beaulieu photo

GULF SHORES, Alabama — Double elimination?

Old news.

With the expanded 16-team field — pared down from 17 when Texas A&M-Corpus Christi ousted UT Martin in Tuesday’s play-in match, it’s win or go home.

Here are Friday’s round-of-16 matches with quarterfinals and semifinals on Saturday. The first match is at 9 a.m. and they’re scheduled on the hour after that:

No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 17 Texas AM-Corpus Christi
No. 9 Long Beach State vs. No. 8 Cal
No. 13 FIU vs. No. 4 Florida State
No. 12 FAU vs. No. 5 LSU
No. 15 Stetson vs. No. 2 TCU
No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 7 Grand Canyon
No. 14 Georgia State vs. No. 3 USC
No. 11 Hawai’i vs. No. 6 Loyola Marymount

In previous tournaments the upsets were exciting, but almost always the top teams battled back.

“I definitely think it makes it a lot more interesting for the fans because it’s so much more of a March Madness mentality,” said Georgia State coach Beth Van Fleet, whose 10th-seeded Panthers stunned second-seeded TCU here a year ago in the second round. This year that would mean they’d be in the semifinals. But Georgia State lost its next two matches.

“For the actual athletes and humans who are competing, I don’t think it makes that much of a difference. Every single time people are stepping on the court they’re always giving their best. You don’t try harder, you don’t give more because of the situation.”

After the past two weekends, when seemingly everyone beat everyone, it gave the top teams reason to pause and the next group reason to hope.

“I’m excited,” LSU’s Kylie Deberg said. “The single-elim definitely gives it a different kind of feeling. Lose once and you’re out … You never know what’s going to happen.”

That’s not lost on her coach, Russell Brock, whose Tigers have appeared to get better and better down the stretch. A big reason is that the 6-foot-4 Deberg, who plays on the LSU No. 1 court with Ellie Shank, sprained her ankle five weeks ago while playing on Manhattan Beach.

Russell Brock talks to his team at NCAA beach practice Thursday/Sierra Beaulieu photo

“You want to be playing well when you get to this,” Brock said. “Even though we didn’t win conference (CCSA), we had some really good…

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