Stanford beach volleyball will open its ninth season in Southern California with five total competitions versus No. 16 Long Beach State, No. 2 UCLA and No. 10 Pepperdine spanning Friday through Sunday. Long Beach will be the Cardinal’s first challenger in two Friday matches, before Stanford takes the sand in two matches against the Bruins on Saturday and one against the Waves on Sunday.
The Cardinal earned the No. 19 spot in the AVCA Beach Volleyball Preseason Top 20, so this weekend’s action could be a preview of how much those rankings could transform throughout the season.
With eight total juniors, seniors and fifth-years, Stanford’s roster has a collection of experienced players likely looking for a different start to the season than the team recorded last year. The Cardinal dropped its first five matches of the 2020 season, being shut out 0-5 in all of them at the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic in Honolulu. Stanford fell to No. 3 LSU, No. 5 Hawai’i and No. 1 UCLA in the event.
Once back in California, the team found its footing quickly, winning six of its next eight matches before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the abrupt cancellation of the remainder of the season.
A number of athletes returning this season found significant success last year, including senior Sunny Villapando and junior Charlie Ekstrom, who composed Stanford’s No. 1 pair in 2020; the duo collected a team-high seven victories across the abbreviated season. Junior Maddie Dailey and senior Amelia Smith finished with the team’s highest win percentage of .600.
Of Stanford’s three 2020 seniors, two have returned for more: Shannon Richardson and Chelsea Red-Horse Mohl. Richardson ranks eighth on Stanford’s all-time individual wins list with 30 to her name.
Friday’s action commences head coach Andrew Fuller’s fifth year as Stanford beach volleyball leadership.
The Cardinal’s first match is set for 10 a.m. PT on Friday against Long Beach State.