Saturday, 13 April 2024

International Volleyball

NCAA beach volleyball: TAMUCC on the rise; Pac-12 South review; another big week ahead

NCAA beach volleyball: TAMUCC on the rise; Pac-12 South review; another big week ahead

Cassie Chinn of Loyola Marymount goes all out/Will Chu Photography

As the NCAA beach volleyball season rolls into its fourth week, we take an in-depth look at ladder-climbing mid-major Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, review the fallout from the combustible Pac-12 South Invitational and preview the East Meets West Invitational on Manhattan beach, where Southern invaders Florida State and LSU will need to make waves.  

Islanders on the uptick

After consecutive Southland Conference titles, earning automatic bids to the last two NCAA Beach Championships, Coach Gayle Stammer’s Texas A&M-Corpus Christi program has bumped its head on — gotta do it — the grass ceiling.

As March Madness looms in basketball, folks filling out tournament brackets soon will tackle the challenge of choosing between mid-major underdogs vs. the usual suspects in those confounded 5 vs. 12 and 6 vs. 11 games.

Beach volleyball isn’t there quite yet, but pure odds dictate that eventually a team not named USC or UCLA will win the national title.

Meanwhile, in a young sport defined by a handful of perennial “haves,” a few long shots and a lot of “have nots,” a program on an upward trajectory such as the Islanders from Corpus Christi craves the one or two significant upsets that might help get it past the “hyphen” or that unwieldy alphabet-soup branding of “TAMUCC.”

Patient building over five mostly forgettable seasons by Stammer has put her Islanders in the catbird seat of the Southland, which grew to eight members with the addition of startup McNeese State. In 2022, TAMUCC was 21-12, and won the league tournament before losing to 3-0 to TCU in the eight-dual “knockout” round of the NCAA’s hybrid championship.

Last season, the Islanders improved to 25-10, knocked off higher-profile programs in Arizona and Florida Gulf Coast, rolled through the conference tourney and beat Ohio Valley Conference champion Tennessee-Martin in the play-in game to the 16-team single-elimination NCAA bracket. A 3-0 loss to UCLA ended the promising campaign.

After three weekends of the 2024 season, TAMUCC is 10-3, the losses coming to resurgent Cal Poly 4-1, perennial power LSU 4-1 and Tulane 3-2. The Islanders hold a 4-1 victory over the Green Wave, who are 10-4, and took three matches out of five against Big West member UC Davis (6-6, 20-12 in 2023).

“This is my third ‘build’ as a coach and you’ve got to go through a lot of losing early on as you are…

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