Week 8 College Beach Volleyball Power Rankings: The Last Unbeaten Falls
To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to happen. I thought UCLA would run the table this season. The Bruins are deep enough, from top to bottom, that courts four and five are misnomers, really, since they have at least court three talent on both, and the same goes for court six as well.
Yet this is sports, and sports are fantastic, because things happen that few expect. Such was the case on Sunday, when USC upset the previously undefeated Bruins, 3-2, by taking wins on the first three courts.
The loss means that no team will finish this season undefeated. It means that no team will go into Gulf Shores in a few weeks an absolute, certain winner.
It means that, yes, the National Championship is still very much up for grabs.
1. UCLA (26-1, previously #1)
This is actually the perfect time for the Bruins to suffer a loss. Their spot in the NCAA Tournament has long been locked up, and to go into the final weekend of the season without a loss adds an uncomfortable level of pressure. That pressure is now gone.
And anyway, you know the old adage — “I either win or I learn.” UCLA finally had a humbling learning experience, an opportunity, with a few weeks before the finale, to shore up what minor holes there may be.
2. USC (20-4, previously #2)
While the timing to suffer a first loss was ideal for UCLA, the timing to log the biggest win of the college beach season was equally as perfect for USC. The Trojans had been reeling off consecutive losses to Pepperdine and the Bruins, and to recover with four straight wins, including the upset over rival UCLA, could not have come at a better time.
Good on USC, which has another loaded week ahead, with Long Beach, Pepperdine and Cal Poly all on the schedule.
3. Florida State (20-5, previously #3)
The last time the Seminoles lost to a team that didn’t hail from Los Angeles was the very first match of the season, against LSU. That’s how smooth Florida State has been rolling of late, dominating East Coast play since the second match of the year. The Seminoles have just three more regular season matches before it’s onto Gulf Shores and another crack at their first National Championship.
4. LSU (21-5, previously #4)
Similar to the Seminoles, it has been more than a month since LSU fell to a school outside Southern California, which is ultimately what it comes down to when seeking a berth into Gulf Shores. Dominate your region and you’re in. With the toughest chunk of its schedule behind it, the Tigers have sealed their spot for the NCAA Tournament.
5. Pepperdine (16-6, previously #5)
While the best of the East Region schools, for the most part, have only a few relatively easy matches left on the schedule, such is not the case here on the West Coast. This week, Pepperdine will have three opportunities for quality wins, the first of which will come on Thursday at USC.
This weekend, the Waves host their final home tournament, with Cal Poly and Berkeley making the trip to Zuma Beach in search of resume-boosting wins before the NCAA committee makes its decision on who goes to Gulf Shores.
6. Hawai’i (18-7, previously #6)
After a long, long trip on the West Coast, the Bows alas had a much deserved, and likely needed, rest this week. Perhaps they can feed off the momentum of the men’s indoor team, which is selling out the Stan Sheriff Center kudos to its current 25-0 run.
The Bows are hosting Washington, San Jose State and LMU this weekend for the Queen’s Cup. A win or two over LMU would be the final few Hawai’i should need to make the NCAA Tournament.
7. FIU (13-9, previously #8)
This is where I zig from the AVCA poll, which has Cal Poly at seven and FIU at eight. It’s not an easy flop to make, since FIU has nine losses on the ledger. But I’m delving into the ever-enigmatic “quality of loss” department, and FIU’s losses remain very good losses. The Panthers beat everyone they’re supposed to beat, while their nine losses are all to teams in the top six.
Poly, meanwhile, has a few better wins, but has also been on the wrong end of a few upsets that FIU hasn’t. It’s not a perfect science. It’s not a science at all, but it’s what I’m going with.
8. Cal Poly (18-7, previously #7)
The question that remains for the Mustangs is whether or not they can slip into Gulf Shores without absorbing another questionable loss. If you’ve watched Poly play this season, you’d know that, even with the slate of injuries, talent is not an issue with the Mustangs. It’s a matter of consistency. They can play as well as any team, but they can also fall to Arizona, as they did on Saturday in Tempe, Arizona.
The remainder of the regular season will be one test after the next, with Cal (twice), Pepperdine, USC, GCU and Stanford all on tap these next two weeks.
First Four Out
Long Beach State (17-5)
Cal Berkeley (16-5)
South Carolina (15-8)
SHARE THIS ARTICLE