NCAA is bringing the sand and sun early with this weekend’s beach volleyball season start
The GIST: Spring break is still weeks away, but the NCAA is bringing the sand and sun early with this weekend’s beach volleyball season start. Slather on that SPF, dust off your most baller shades, and let’s dig in.
How it works: Unlike indoor volleyball, college beach volleyball is an all-women affair, with teams made up of multiple pairs of athletes. At each match, five of these two-gal squads face five from the opposing school, and the program to win at least three of those five bouts takes the overall dub.
- There are 83 Division I programs competing for one of 16 tickets to Gulf Shores, AL, for the single-elimination national tourney in early May.
- Nine squads will automatically qualify while the remaining seven are selected by committee to fight it out for the title of beach queen.
The powerhouses: Back-to-back national champs USC lost only once last year in an early-season barnburner against crosstown rival UCLA, but they still start as the preseason No. 4. The coveted No. 1 spot? That belongs to the UCLA Bruins, who return a whopping nine out of last year’s 10 starters. Talk about sand in USC’s wound.
- Natty runner-up Florida State and TCU come in at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, and LSU rounds out the preseason Top 5. You’ll want to keep tabs on ’em all — each boasts enough talent to be that beach.
What to watch: Ranked squads are pairing up at several massive tourneys this weekend, including the USC Invite and the Seminole Beach Bash (um, where’s our invite?). But the huge Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic is already underway in Waikiki, HI, where the Bruins will face the likes of No. 9 Stanford and No. 10 Hawai’i. Not not jealous.