How NCAA beach volleyball works
The GIST: Although the basics are the same — don’t let the ball on the ground, don’t touch the net, etc. — beach volleyball’s format is a significant shakeup from that of its indoor cousin. Established in 2016 as a beneficiary of the Emerging Sports Program, the women-only spring sport has 69 DI, 21 DII, and 9 DIII squads, nearly all in the southern half of the country.
- A beach team’s roster usually consists of 15 to 20 athletes, with some players pulling double-duty by suiting up for the indoor team in the fall before (swim)suiting up for the spring beach season.
How it works: In each matchup, teams field five pairs of players against duos from the opposing school. The squad that takes three of the five matches wins the day — so even if two of the school’s pairs lose, the team can still come out on top.
- The spring schedule is jam-packed with weekend tournaments, and top teams square up multiple times in the regular season. This makes for an extra-spicy postseason tourney, which takes place in Gulf Shores, AL, and follows a recently-introduced new format.
- The NCAA hosts only one championship for all three divisions, but DII, DIII, and NAIA schools can also compete for postseason glory at April’s AVCA Small College Beach Volleyball Championship.
The beach queens: The California gurls unsurprisingly dominate on the sand. USC and UCLA have won all seven of the sport’s DI titles, and the Trojans lead with five, including the last three. Florida State and Pepperdine are the only other teams to even compete for the title, but the LA duo is showing no signs of slowing down.