NCAA Beach Championships
- Gulf Shores, Alabama
- May 4-6, 2018
- Tournament Central
With the bracket split evenly with four East Region and four West Region teams and the seedings pitting East vs. West in each of the first round pairings, this edition of the NCAA Beach Championships should be an interesting test in the traditionally West Coast leaning rankings.
The top four seeds are all conference champions with No. 1 UCLA winning the Pac-12, No. 2 Pepperdine taking the West Coast Conference title, No. 3 Hawaii owning the Big West crown and No. 4 Florida State winning the CCSA. Rounding out the field are the Pac-12’s runner-up in two-time defending champs USC and three teams from the CCSA in South Carolina, LSU and Florida International.
Here’s a quick look at the potential lineups for all eight teams. It is a who’s who of players nationally with nearly all of the pairs earning mention among the AVCA’s Top Flight Award winners.
- Nicole McNamara/Megan McNamara
- Lily Justine/Sarah Sponcil
- Savvy Simo/Madi Yeomans
- Elise Zappia/Mac May
- Izzy Carey/Megan Muret
- Corinne Quiggle/Deahna Kraft
- Brook Bauer/Madalyn Roh
- Heidi Dyer/Gigi Hernandez
- Skylar Caputo/Alexis Filippone
- Maddie Dilfer/Nikki Lyons
- Ka’iwi Schucht/Emily Maglio
- Megan Martin/Lea Monkhouse
- Carly Kan/Laurel Weaver
- Ari Homayun/Amy Ozee
- Paige Dreeuws/Hannah Zalopany
- Tory Paranagua/Vanessa Freire
- Hailey Luke/Katie Horton
- Macy Jerger/Sara Putt
- Brooke Kuhlman/Molly McBain
- Francesca Goncalves/Madison Fitzpatrick
- Abril Bustamante/Tina Graudina
- Terese Cannon/Sammy Slater
- Joy Dennis/Cammie Dorn
- Jenna Belton/Maja Kaiser
- Haley Holgren/Alexandra Poletto
- Cadie Bates/Katie Smith
- Shannon Williams/Ali Denney
- Carly Schnieder/Julia Mannisto
- Leah Perri/Macie Tendrich
- Caroline Skaff/Jess Vastine
- Claire Coppola/ Kristen Nuss
- Haleigh Nelson/Mandi Orellana
- Olivia Powers/Hunter Domanski
- Emmy Allen/Megan Davenport
- Riley Young/Maddie Ligon
- Federica Frasca/Margherita Bianchin
- Lina Bernier/Erika Zembyla
- Katie Friesen/Dorina Klinger
- Mariana Dal Pozzo/Taija Thomas
- Natalia Giron/Estafanie Bethancourt
This tournament appears as though it’s going to come down to a 3-team battle: UCLA, Pepperdine, and Hawaii the three western powers, for the win. #1 UCLA has won 2-of-3 matchups this season against #2 Pepperdine, but Pepperdine was also the last team to beat UCLA via a 4-1 drubbing on March 3rd.
If this comes down to a #1 vs. #2 matchup, it will be the best championship we’ve seen yet.
- UCLA 3 (#1, #2, #5), Pepperdine 2 (#3, #4)
- Pepperdine 4 (#1, #2, #4, #5), UCLA 1 (#3)
- UCLA 4 (#1, #3, #4, #5), Pepperdine 1 (#2)
There’s been no discernible pattern to hold on to with the results, except that even UCLA beat Pepperdine 4-1 in late March, the #2, #3, and #4 lines all went to a tie-breaker set, so the 4-1 doesn’t really lay out how close it was.
While Pepperdine has gone with Quiggle and Kraft as their #1 line and Bauer and Roh as their #2 line lately, they’ve swapped the pairs back-and-forth all season long. Whomever they settle on for the NCAA Championship tournament will run into the McNamara twins – they have a 31-7 record this season, playing against some of the toughest competition in the country. Pepperdine has to get a win at the #2 line to pull off the upset in this theoretical matchup: whichever pair they land on. Pepperdine has also struggled at the #5 line. That puts a ton of pressure on their #3 and #4 groups to get the job done if the Waves want their first-ever NCAA title.
But Hawaii is a serious sleeper after a 35-3 season, albeit one they play almost entirely on home sand (against teams that have had long-haul flights to get there). Their only 3 losses are against Florida State, and twice against UCLA. The Wahine are incredibly tough at the top of their lineup: their #1 line of Emily Maglio/ Ka’iwi Schucht are 25-1 this season, their #2 line of Morgan Martin/ Lea Monkhouse are 19-0 this season, and their #3 line of Laurel Weaver/ Carly Kan are 17-1 this season. That’s not a lineup that I’d want to run into, but they have run that lineup into UCLA 3 times this year, and after a very early 5-0 win, they’ve been beaten both times.
With such a tough field, and no obvious alignment to point to, this one is a lot about gut-feelings. UCLA should roll through the winners bracket untouched, but the question then becomes can anybody beat them twice?
I think the answer is no. Hawaii enters with confidence on a 30 match win streak, but the hardest part of their schedule came early, and they know that. I think that the final will be Pepperdine vs. UCLA, that Pepperdine will win once, and then the #1 seed, UCLA, will keep the title in southern California for another year.
Speaking more broadly, unfortunately, because of the way the seeding falls out this year, I don’t see much room for upsets. I do like #7 LSU to beat #6 South Carolina in an all-CCSA battle to open the elimination bracket, but it’s hard to see them getting past Florida State (or FIU getting past USC). If Hawaii validates their record, they have a chance at fighting back through Pepperdine on the rematch to get their shot at UCLA – that’s the next-most-likely place for an upset to come.