Stanford women’s beach volleyball will open its season this Saturday at home in the Stanford Tournament. The team will play four games during the weekend. Preseason polls have placed the Cardinal as No. 13 in the NCAA after a solid 2015 season.
The team will face several changes this year, including a new head coach in Denise Corlett, and seven freshmen on the 15-person roster, four of whom have significant experience playing beach volleyball specifically.
“The kids are having a lot of fun – we’re learning a lot, we’re getting better. We added more experience with some of our freshmen coming in with some sand experience,” Corlett said.
The most important change for the Cardinal – and teams across the country – is that they have been given an NCAA Championship for the first time ever this year.
As a result, every game Stanford plays will count toward the greater goal of becoming one of the teams to be included in the first-ever NCAA Beach Volleyball Tournament.
Before the NCAA Tournament, Stanford will also get the chance to participate in the first-ever Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Championships, which will take place in Los Angeles in late April. The NCAA Championships will then begin on May 6.
“It definitely gives us more of a concrete goal to work for in terms of the end of the season, and I think that’s been on everyone’s minds since we’ve started practicing out on the sand,” said sophomore Catherine Raquel. “It’s definitely added a bit of excitement to things.”
The first game of the season will be played against Sacramento State on Saturday. Last year the team started off the season with a match against Sacramento State at the NorCal Tournament, which they won 5-0.
Stanford finished the 2015 season with a solid 11-4 record, easily outdoing Sacramento’s 6-8 record. If the teams are in similar positions this year, the Cardinal should have no trouble kicking off the season with a win.
The Cardinal will take on San Jose State later on Saturday. Stanford swept San Jose in the teams’ first regular-season matchup last year. The Cardinal will hope for another quick victory to save their energy for their two Sunday matches.
Stanford will start off Sunday morning with a much more difficult matchup against University of the Pacific, as the Tigers are ranked No. 16 in the NCAA preseason poll. Pacific is a team that has been active for four years, longer than most in the country. Last year, they ended the season with a 12-7 record and were ranked 13th.
The Cardinal and the Tigers met for the first time last year at the NorCal Tournament, and the Cardinal faced a tough loss after a weekend of wins. When the teams met again towards the end of the season, Stanford came away with a 3-2 win.
Finally, the Cardinal will face St. Mary’s, which had a disappointing season last year. When Stanford took on the Gaels in April of last year, the team came away with the sweep.
Overall, this weekend does not promise much trouble for the Cardinal if they continue to play at the level of last season. The team has been practicing together since January, although the beach-only players have been honing their skills since fall. The indoor volleyball players have made a smooth transition despite the differences in play.
“It’s a different game being on the beach, when you’re playing with two people versus six,” said Corlett. “They have to learn strategy, they have to learn how to manage the timeouts and how to make changes within the plays.”
“Everyone is working super hard, and a lot of the indoor players already have previous beach experience so I think they definitely bring a lot to the table and I think we’re stronger because of them,” said Raquel.
“It’s a great mix, and I think it’s really exciting to see how we’ll do this weekend.”
Barring thunder and lightning in the area this weekend, the Stanford Tournament will take place rain or shine with first serve against Sacramento State at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Contact Laura Sussman at [email protected].