Sand Volleyball Opens Season With #1 Ranking
Feb. 28, 2014
MALIBU, Calif. – As the third season of collegiate sand volleyball quickly approaches, the AVCA released its top-10 preseason poll. The Pepperdine sand volleyball team, two-time AVCA National Championship finalists, landed at #1. To date, the Waves are the only squad to hold the top ranking in the polls.
Pepperdine, under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Nina Matthies, opens the season on Saturday, March 8, hosting newcomer Cal State Northridge and USC. The Waves face the Matadors, headed by men’s volleyball alum Jeff Stork, at 10 a.m.
A battle between #1 and #2 is set for noon, when top-ranked Pepperdine takes on the #2 Trojans.
USC concluded the 2013 season with a 16-8 record, reaching the semifinals of the AVCA National Championship before falling to eventual champion Long Beach State. The 49ers open the year at #3.
Rounding out the top-five are Florida State and Hawaii.
Participation in sand volleyball has grown incrementally since the inaugural season in 2012, and more than 40 schools are expected to field programs this season. Such rapid growth makes sand volleyball the fastest-growing ‘Emerging Sport’ in NCAA history.
The Waves return eight student-athletes who were all regulars in last year’s lineup including AVCA All-Americans Caitlin Racich (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos HS) and Lara Dykstra (Redondo Beach, Calif./Redondo Union HS/Nebraska).
Victoria Adelhelm (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif./Santa Fe Christian HS), Emily Cook (Huntington Beach, Calif./Murrieta Valley HS), Taylor Racich (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos HS) and Katie Messing (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands HS) provide plenty of depth and experience for Pepperdine. Adelhelm and Racich posted a 16-3 record as partners in 2013, while Cook and Messing went 15-4 last year.
Two transfers with sand volleyball experience join the Waves in 2014, including indoor AVCA All-American honorable mention Becca Strehlow (Long Beach, Calif./Woodrow Wilson HS/UCLA) and Sophie Asprey (Southlake, Texas/Liberty Christian School/Tulane). Strehlow not only played college sand last season with the Bruins, but she also traveled to Croatia last summer to compete at the 2013 FIVB U21 World Championships, where she paired with fellow Pepperdine student-athlete Dykstra. Asprey held down the No. 1 spot for Tulane in 2013 and also boasts a plethora of experience while competing for USA Volleyball.
Sand volleyball freshmen include Delaney Knudsen (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS), Leanna Schroeder (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian HS) and Kendahl Hettick (Encinitas, Calif./San Dieguito Academy), while Jillian Bergeson (Friendswood, Texas/Friendswood HS) and Samantha Cash (San Diego, Calif./Canyon Crest Academy) also join the sand squad after a successful indoor campaign last fall.
Pepperdine has established itself as the top team in the country and boasts an all-time record of 34-1. The Waves won the inaugural national title in 2012 behind a perfect 14-0 record. In 2013, Pepperdine marched right back to the championship match with 20 consecutive dual wins before suffering its first-ever loss while competing shorthanded. Long Beach State is to date the only team to beat Pepperdine, but the Waves still hold an 8-1 all-time record vs. the 49ers.
The Waves have three home dates on the schedule, in addition to the March 8 home opener. Pepperdine hosts Loyola Marymount on Thursday, March 20, Long Beach State on April 3, and Pacific and Saint Mary’s on April 19. The Waves’ full schedule can be viewed here, printed here, or downloaded to Outlook here.
The AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship returns to Gulf Shores, Ala. on May 2-4.