Tuesday, 21 March 2023

International Volleyball

NCAA beach volleybal: Growing pains for Texas; No. 1 TCU plays No. 2 USC

NCAA beach volleybal: Growing pains for Texas; No. 1 TCU plays No. 2 USC

Texas got burned in its first taste of NCAA beach competition, but is ready to jump right back into the fire.

The Longhorns experienced an eye-opening introduction to the sand game during its stay in Hawaii, going 0-5 in the Queens Cup over the weekend and gettng swept by the Rainbow Wahines in a dual meet Tuesday.

Their teams went 3-27 across the five flights in the six duals, which included losing 3-2 to Nebraska, picking up victories from Keonilei Akana-Devin Kahahawai on Court 2 and Jordyn Byrd-Jenna Wenaas at No. 5. Native Hawaiians Akana and Kahahawai also won their match at No. 2 against Washington.

The Longhorns’ inexperienced beach players will take on more of the sport’s top programs Friday and Saturday as one of five teams in an event put on by No. 13 Long Beach State. Others are No. 16 Stetson, CSUN and Utah.

Texas is the defending NCAA women’s indoor volleyball champion and has enjoyed consistent excellence on the hardcourt, with four AIAW or NCAA titles and a record of advancing to the NCAA round of eight or better 16 times in the last 17 seasons.

Erik Sullivan, the Olympian and longtime indoors Texas associate head coach, is also the coach of the Longhorns’ startup beach program. He admitted that not winning has been culture shock to players accustomed to elite-level success.

“I love the way our girls are approaching it,” Sullivan told VolleyballMag.com from the airport in Hawaii as the team waited for its flight back to the mainland. “I love the way they’re competing, and I love the way they are dealing with their frustration of losing, because most of the girls in our program haven’t lost a lot in their careers.

“We knew coming in that we were likely to deal [with adversity], so we tried to tamper [the players’] expectations down a little bit. We communicated to them that we knew there are going to be some frustrations here,and that you are competitive, but that this is just part of the process, so try not to get too frustrated with that piece of it.”

Bella Bergmark of Texas tries to block Hawai’i’s Jaimie Santer/UH photo

Sullivan is confident that his Longhorns should be more in sync in the upcoming event in Long Beach after having gotten a better feel for beach doubles.

“By design, we’re playing everyone on the roster and not just 10 girls,” he notes, so continuity understandably was an issue in these first matches.

“We would see as our practices progressed that our girls…

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