After winning the inaugural NCAA beach volleyball championship last year, the USC Trojans rank #1 in the 2017 pre-season AVCA beach volleyball coaches’ poll released on Monday.
While the top of the poll (specifically, 1, 2, and 3) are the same as last year’s final rankings, the poll itself has improved since then. In 2016, the AVCA ranked only the top 10 teams. Now they’ve expanded those rankings all the way to 15 – giving a wider view as teams vie for 8 spots at the NCAA tournament from May 5th-7th in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
USC, behind their U.S. National Team pairing of Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes, enters the 2017 season as favorites to win it all again after a 34-2 team record last season. The team that lost to USC in the NCAA Championship game, Florida State, enters the year ranked #2, followed by UCLA at 3.
The rest of the top 10 shakes up a little bit, with Pepperdine jumping Hawaii for the #4 position. They’ll open their season with the benefit of home-sand at the Pepperdine Kick-Off tournament in Malibu, but won’t rest easy. That’s because their first three matches of the season are against #3 UCLA, #1 USC, and #2 Florida State. In fact, their first 5 matches of the season are all against teams ranked in the top 9 of the pre-season poll.
The top 10 to start this season includes the same top 10 teams, albeit in a different order, as the rankings were to end last season. That leaves FIU, Grand Canyon, Stanford, Cal, and Tulane as the new members of the rankings this season, with 8 other schools receiving votes.
Stanford is the most intriguing of those 5 teams. After they won the NCAA indoor championship with the youngest team in history, many of those young Cardinal will jump to the beach in the spring. That includes most of the team’s primary indoor players, like star freshmen Audriana Fitzmorris, Jenna Gray, Morgan Hentz, and Kathryn Plummer; as well as older contributors Halland McKenna, Ivana Vanjak, and Courtney Bowen. If they adapt as well to the beach as they did to the collegiate indoor game, Stanford could finish the season much higher than the 13th rank where they start it
See the full 2017 pre-season rankings below:
|Rank||School||2016 Record||2016 Final Rank|
|7||Long Beach State||13-14||9|
Others receiving votes: Arizona State, TCU, Cal Poly, Loyola Marymount, Florida Atlantic, Saint Mary’s, Washington, South Carolina
Next Poll: March 6