Sunday, 14 April 2024

International Volleyball

NCAA beach volleyball, part 2: C-USA, WCC, Sun Belt, ASUN, SLC, OVC

NCAA beach volleyball, part 2: C-USA, WCC, Sun Belt, ASUN, SLC, OVC

TCU’s Anhelina Khmil jousts with USC’s Madison Shields/Michael Gomez photo

This is the second of two stories previewing the NCAA beach volleyball season that begins Thursday. Part 2 looks at Conference USA, the West Coast Conference, Sun Belt, ASUN, Southland and Ohio Valley.
High-profile independents Texas and Nebraska also are detailed. Finally, we spin from Hawaii to Texas to Florida (with stops in between), running down an event-filled opening-week schedule.   

Conference USA

The league’s profile soared when NCAA Championship semifinalist TCU, which held the No. 1 spot in the AVCA coaches poll for six weeks last season, left the CCSA for C-USA. 

Hector Gutierrez, the 2023 AVCA coach of the year, must figure out a workaround for the Olympics absences of AVCA pair of the year Daniela Alvarez and Tania Moreno. But the Horned Frogs remain squarely in the hunt for the NCAA title, checking in at No. 4 in the preseason ranking. Alvarez and Moreno have eligibility remaining, but are on track to represent their native Spain in Paris and have focused on the Volleyball World Tour.

A new top duo might have had a coming-out party in November, when junior Hailey Hamlett and sophomore Anhelina Khmil (the CCSA freshman of the year) took the gold medal in the AVCA National Pairs Championship in Huntsville, Alabama. Sutton MacTavish and Ana Vergara also are battle-tested returnees from a squad that finished 37-3 and eliminated Stetson and Stanford in the NCAAs before falling 3-2 to USC in the semis. Look for the Horned Frogs to loom large again in the single-elimination NCAA Beach Championships (May 1 and 3-5) in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the final year of the event’s run on the Redneck Riviera before it moves to “Surf City,” Huntington Beach, California, in 2025.

A two-bid league last season, C-USA saw its membership swell to nine with not only TCU but with the addition of Missouri State from the CCSA and debut beach program Tarleton State. Holdover staples Florida Atlantic (No. 11 in the preseason poll) and Florida International (ranked 13th) are expected to be solid again. 

FAU (19-14 in 2023) can build around Julie Honzovicova (half of the C-USA pair of the year), Ashleigh Adams and Courtney Moon. 

FIU (20-17) has a new coach in Terri Del Conti, who replaced the iconic Rita Buck-Crockett. Back for the Panthers are second-team AVCA All-American Lucie Pokorna, Giada Bianchi, Lisa Luini and Alice Pratesi.

Tulane gathered momentum with a 24-10 record and…

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