Week 1 College Beach Volleyball Power Rankings: UCLA Begins on Top
After a nine-month hiatus, the college beach volleyball season, a brief sprint through late winter and spring, begins on Thursday, with Cal Poly visiting 2018 National Champion UCLA. While most traditional outlets use a 20- or 25-team ranking system, here at p1440 we’re going to go more College Football Playoff style, using a top-8, since eight teams make the playoffs in Gulf Shores, Ala. in the first week of May.
As with any power rankings, these are subjective and therefore could be entirely wrong and/or entirely useless. The methodology used will be comparing the AVCA polls with results, traditional program success and the always difficult to measure eye test.
Here are your Week 1 College Beach Volleyball Power Rankings.
- UCLA (40-4)
The Bruins have two “problems,” problems being put in quotes because they’re not actual problems, but delightful little dilemmas. The first is that they’re deep to the point that they could form a starting five and a reserve five and the reserve five could very well be on this top-eight list as well. The second is that three of the top players on the roster, Nicole and Megan McNamara and Sarah Sponcil, are pursuing international aspirations as well, the McNamaras for Canada and Sponcil for the United States alongside Kelly Claes, with whom she won a silver medal at The Hague four-star. Two “problems” coaches wouldn’t mind having.
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- Pepperdine (25-5)
This will be the first year the Waves are not being led by Nina Matthies, who won a pair of AVCA National Championships and accrued more than 700 total wins between indoor and the beach. Instead it will be Marcio Sicoli, coach of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, at the helm, and he oversees a roster returning all but one player (Corinne Quiggle) while adding freshmen Peyton Lewis, Simone Priebe and Maddy Bailey.
- USC (27-14)
It feels strange slotting USC, the Alabama of beach volleyball, at No. 3, but such is the developing state of the game, where parity grows with each year. The Trojans were young in 2018, and returners Tina Graudina, Haley Hallgren, Joy Dennis, Sammy Slater, and Maja Kaiser all could have at least one more year of eligibility, not to mention graduate students Terese Cannon and Alex Poletto as well as senior Abril Bustamante. If 2018, in which USC finished ranked No. 5, could be considered a “down year” for the program that has won three of the past four National Championships, it could simply be setting the Trojans up for another wildly successful season in 2019.
- Florida State (33-7)
There are only two programs in the country that have competed in every AVCA and NCAA National Tournament: Pepperdine, and Florida State. Brooke Niles has overseen one of the most consistent programs in the nation, on the coast a good many sometimes forget can develop bona fide beach talent. In the past three seasons, the Seminoles have finished runner-up, fourth, and runner-up. With a host of talent returning and one of the most heralded recruiting classes in the nation, including three All-Americans, the Seminoles could bring their first national title home to Tallahassee.
- Hawai’i (37-5)
Sure, Hawai’i lost a lot of its talent from 2018, graduating six players from the team that narrowly missed competing for a National Championship. But the Bows still have juniors Morgan Martin and Amy Ozee as well as seniors Emily Maglio and Ari Homayun and a coaching staff that has yet to miss an AVCA or NCAA playoff. There may be some growing pains in the beginning, but rest assured, Hawai’i is likely to be a contender come Gulf Shores.
- LSU (27-14)
Head coach Russell Brock continues to defy any geographical limitations he may have, winning 27 matches in each of the past two seasons, finishing No. 6 in the AVCA end of season polling. Returning from that No. 6 team from a year ago are 12 players, including Claire Coppola and Kristen Nuss, the CCSA Pair of the Year after finishing 31-8 on the top court. On top of that, the Tigers are hauling in six freshmen, Creighton transfer Taryn Kloth and three seniors from the indoor team.
- Long Beach State (26-8)
Arguably the biggest snub from the NCAA Tournament in 2018, The Beach returns the rapidly improving Megan Kruidhof, Nicci Reinking, sophomore defensive dynamo Hailey Harward and senior Zoi Konstantopoulou. It’s a young team, with a lot of new pieces, but such is the theme of many teams outside of the top four, which will make for a lot of movement in the rankings from No. 4-16 throughout the season.
- Cal (24-8)
Cal seems to be taking the Michigan State basketball team’s approach this season when it comes to scheduling in the sense that it’s really, really hard. The Bears will play eight matches against teams that finished in the Top 10, and four of those are against teams in the nation’s top five. This can go both ways – it can either develop the Bears, which finished No. 12 in last year’s end-of-season poll, or it can make for some tough losses. Either way, Cal will be tested, and all it will take is a few big resume-boosting wins to vindicate the bold scheduling.
First Four Out
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