It's that time of year again — time to pull out the shades, soak up the rays and watch some of the best athletes in the nation compete on the beach for the ultimate prize: the 2019 NCAA women's beach volleyball championship title. This year's tournament begins May 3 with the first round of action. Here's are four key things to know before the tournament begins.
California schools have won all three beach volleyball championships in history.
Southern California is the only team in beach volleyball history to have won two national championships, as the Trojans captured the title in the inaugural 2016 tournament and then defended their crown in 2017. UCLA and Southern California hold the top two seeds in this year's bracket with Florida State holding the third spot. Pepperdine and Cal Poly also represent the Golden State in this year's bracket, making it the most well-represented state in the championship. California is also home to four of the nine Pac-12 teams in women's beach volleyball, and the team that wins the Pac-12 tournament has, throughout the history of the tournament, gone on to win the NCAA title.
CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Here's the complete list of all of the NC women's beach volleyball championship teams
The key in this tournament is to play the long game — one loss doesn't end a team's chances to win the title.
The women's beach volleyball tournament runs is double-elimination, which means that a team can still lose an early round game and walk away as a champion. In last year's tournament, UCLA lost to Florida State in the second round, but the Bruins came back to find glory. They beat LSU and Southern California before advancing to the consolation semifinal against Hawaii, a team that had previously also lost to Florida State in the championship semifinal. After beating Hawaii in five sets, UCLA topped Florida State by the exact same 3-1 score that Florida State stopped them by earlier in the tournament. The Bruins became the first team in NC women's beach volleyball history to end up on the top of the podium after a tournament loss, but their run last year showed that such a path is possible. Once a team suffers a loss, it moves down to the consolation bracket where it must win four games to earn a spot in the championship.
If there's anything to be learned from UCLA's title run last year, it's that playing well at the end of the tournament is far more important than playing well to start.
The beach volleyball tournament has been played in Gulf Shores, Alabama every year.
For the fourth time in a row, the best women's beach volleyball players in the country will travel to Gulf Shores, Alabama for the national championship and attempt to earn a title on the same beach that their predecessors did. The city lies in the southernmost edge of the Alabama up against the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Shores is slated to continue to host the tournament in May for the next three years.
Beach volleyball record holders will take the stage again this year
In last year's tournament, Sara Putt tied Ari Homayun's NCAA record of 35 kills in an individual game, a record Homayun set exactly one year prior. A redshirt junior, Putt will return to this year's tournament hoping to break her own mark, but interestingly enough, Hawaii's Ari Homayun also returns, setting up a showdown between the athletes with the greatest number of kills in an individual game. Putt earned All-American honors at Stetson in 2016 before transferring to Florida State where she held guide her team to a runner-up finish in 2018. Homayun led the Warriors to a semifinal game in 2018, the same season where she set the Hawaii school record for 25 straight dual match wins.
RECORD BOOKS: NCAA beach volleyball championship records
The two oldest records in NCAA beach volleyball history are Julie Brown’s .895 individual game attack percentage and the six service aces record held by Jessica Button, Hannah Rooks and Nina Pellitteri. All four of these athletes set their records on May 6, 2016. Brown and Pellitteri both graduated in 2016 from Florida State, with Brown earning All-American honors in her final season. Button also collected All-American honors during her career and earned her degree from Georgia State that same year.
MEET THE CONTENDERS: NCAA announces 2019 beach volleyball championship field