Beach volleyball falls on day 1 in first NCAA championship appearance

May 7, 2021, 5:52 p.m.

No. 6 Stanford beach volleyball (23-13, 6-5 Pac-12) made a quick exit in its first national championship appearance with losses to No. 3 Florida State (33-4, 6-1 CCSA) and No. 7 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (24-10, 0-0 Big West) in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Florida State made quick work of the Cardinal to start Friday, winning all five first sets, including a 27-25 thriller over Stanford’s top pair made up of freshman Xolani Hodel and senior Sunny Villapando. Hodel and Villapando’s match would not be played to completion as the three pairs below them on the lineup fell quickly to finish the 3-0 decision and knock the Cardinal down to the elimination bracket.

The Cardinal did not advance further, losing in the first round of the lower bracket to Cal Poly, 3-2, a reversal of the Cardinal’s April 3 win over the Mustangs. 

The third pair of sophomore Maddi Kriz and freshman Maya Harvey and the fourth pair of freshman Emmy Sharp and senior Amelia Smith couldn’t find any success against either opponent on Friday. The two pairs went a combined 0-8 in their sets during the first day of the championship. Sharp and Smith put up a fight against the Cal Poly duo of freshman Sam Strah and sophomore Eleonore Johansen but ultimately fell in straight 21-19 sets.

Stanford won 3 of the five first sets against the Mustangs, putting itself in a position to advance, but the team’s fifth pair of juniors Maddie Dailey and Jordan McKinney couldn’t bring the win to fruition. Dailey clinched the first set 27-25 with a service ace that trickled off the net but she and McKinney struggled to find their footing in the second and third sets. Cal Poly won the second set, 21-11, and a dramatic 21-19 final set to clinch the dual 3-2 and send the Cardinal home.

The team ended the season with a program-high 23 dual wins, while Smith, Villapando and Hodel ended with 22 match wins, just one shy of Stanford’s individual record of 23 matches, set by both Villapando and Courtney Bowen ’19 in 2018.

Michael Espinosa '22 is majoring in international relations. He's the head of The Daily's social media team, and editor for the University beat and also occasionally writes for sports, arts, and The Grind. He's the biggest Taylor Swift fan at Stanford and the proudest New Yorker you will ever meet. Contact him at mespinosa 'at'

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