Fall From Grace

Eric Bouscher
USC team members and coaches rush the court after Kirby Burnham and Stevi Robinson secured the pairs title.

In sand volleyball’s second year as an emerging NCAA sport, six teams and 10 duos from other schools deemed “The Best of the Rest,” attended the AVCA Collegiate Sand Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala. The team competition began on Friday, May 3, and early on, results appeared to be conforming to the pre-tournament rankings, with the top four teams – Pepperdine, Long Beach State, USC, and Florida State – continuing into the semifinals.

However, things had not at all been going according to plan for the top seed Pepperdine. Before even beginning the tournament, the squad lost half of their No. 1 duo, Kim Hill, because of academic ineligibility. Junior Jazmine Orozco stepped up to fill the spot next to Hill’s former partner Lilla Frederick, but suffered a concussion in the team quarterfinal match versus USC. The 6'1" player from Lakewood, Calif., has a history of concussive issues, having suffered a brain contusion in 2011 at a USA Volleyball tryout while playing for the University of Illinois. Due to Orozco’s tournament injury and the lack of available replacements for her, Pepperdine was forced to forfeit in the No. 1 spot for the remaining matches. Despite that, they managed to overcome Florida State in the semifinal match 3-2.

After Long Beach State eliminated USC 3-2 in the semis, the 49ers met the Waves in the final matchup. Due to Pepperdine’s forfeit in the No. 1 spot, Long Beach State’s Tara Roenicke and Caitlin Ledoux never even took the sand. Down 0-1, Pepperdine managed a win at the No. 2 spot when Caitlin Racich and Lara Dykstra pulled out the third set 15-9 versus Delainey Aigner-Swesey and Chelsea Cabrajac. At No. 3, Long Beach State’s Libby Fontanilla and Bre Mackie fell to Pepperdine’s Kelley Larsen and Kellie Woolever in straight sets, making the count 2-1 Pepperdine. When Emily Cook and Katie Messing, Pepperdine’s No. 5 squad, lost to Janisa Johnson and Tyler Jackson 21-19, 21-18, the pressure was on for the deciding No. 4 matchup between Victoria Adelhelm and Taylor Racich of Pepperdine and Lauren Minkel and Jocelyn Neely of Long Beach State. Adelhelm/Racich took the first set 21-19, but Minkel and Neely came out strong in the second, winning 21-9, a performance they followed up with a 15-10 win in the third, earning their squad the team championship title.

Long Beach State had only lost three team matches this season, all of them to Pepperdine. The tournament loss was Pepperdine’s only team competition loss in the two years of the program’s existence.

In the pairs competition—without Hill and Frederick, the likely winners of the No. 1 seed—USC’s Kirby Burnham and Stevi Robinson earned the top seed, followed by Long Beach State’s Roenicke and Ledoux. In the big upset of the first round, the No. 12 seed, Georgia State’s Katie Madewell and Lane Carico, defeated last year’s pairs champion Caitlin Racich and her new partner Dykstra in straight sets. Madewell and Carico continued to have success, next beating Kate Stepanova and Ksenia Sukhareva of Florida International to earn a spot in the semis, where they met USC’s Burnham and Robinson who ended their run.

Long Beach State’s Roenicke and Ledoux defeated the fourth semifinalist duo, Jessica Mendoza and Maryna Samoday of FIU and met Burnham and Robinson in the finals. Burnham and Robinson continued their nearly unblemished run, winning the championship match 2-0, leaving Roenicke and Ledoux runners-up for the second year in a row.

2013 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball All-Americans

Kate Stepanova | FIU
Jace Pardon | FSU
Sarah Wickstrom | FSU
Lane Carico | GSU
Caitlin Ledoux | LBSU
Tara Roenicke | LBSU
Kim Hill | Pepperdine
Lilla Frederick | Pepperdine
Lara Dykstra | Pepperdine
Caitlin Racich | Pepperdine
Kelly Reeves | UCLA
Zuzana Markova | ULM
Kirby Burnham | USC
Stevi Robinson | USC

2013 AVCA Sand Volleyball Coach of the Year

Nina Matthies | Pepperdine

Originally published in July 2013

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