With a Southern California beach girl on the team, Delaware gave top-seeded Loyola Marymount a tough battle before the taller Lions prevailed, 21-16, 21-19, in the CBS College Beach Volleyball Championship at West Beach on Sunday.
The 12-team tournament was held in conjunction with the AVP Nivea Santa Barbara Open.
Emily Day, 6-1, and Heather Hughes, 6-2, used their height advantage and steady play to defeat a tough Colleen Walsh and Stephanie Berry team from Delaware.
The LMU pair lost just one game in the two-day tournament, and that came against Delaware in the quarterfinals.
“We played them two other times in the tournament and every time we played they continued to get better and better, so we knew it was going to be a close one,” said the Day.
Day-Hughes hold the distinction of being the lowest-seeded team (54th) to advance to an AVP main draw at the Long Beach tournament in 2007.
Day is currently playing on the AVP Tour. She finished 25th in Santa Barbara with partner Angela McHenry.
Hughes, meanwhile, is training with the U.S. national indoor team.
Walsh and Berry don’t have those kind of credentials, but they showed they can play on the beach. A couple of mis-hits here and there hurt them and some big hits by Hughes and tough serves by Day made the difference.
“They’re a really good,” Berry said of the LMU players. “I think I maybe could have played a little better on defense and stopped a couple more (shots) so they had to think about it.”
Berry, an all-conference libero at Delaware, has the beach game in her blood. Her parents played on the beach, her sister played at TCU and her aunt, Beth Meade, who worked as their coach this weekend, competed many years on the California beach open circuit back in the 1970s and battled against players like UCSB coach Kathy Gregory.
Walsh, an outside hitter from Cleveland, is new to the beach game, but she showed she can pound the ball and block on the sand.
“I like to joke that I played on the beach at Lake Erie,” she said with a laugh. “I did play a little there. In Delaware and on the east coast, there’s a lot of grass courts, so when I got to college I played a lot on the grass. It’s different from sand, but I got a lot of doubles experience.
“Training with Steph the past couple of months has really helped because she is a beach player.”
Berry rallied Delaware late in the second game, pulling to within one at 20-19 after LMU cut the ball wide. Berry dug a LMU shot on the next rally but the Blue Hens hit the ball into the net to end the game.
“Give us a little more practice and we’ll have a rematch,” said Berry, who will be returning to the east coast for a job.
“I love it,” she said about being involved with the AVP Tour. I love the environment and the people. I’d love to play in the qualifiers if they come to the east coast.”
Day enjoyed the tournament and said the decision by the NCAA to add women’s sand volleyball as an emerging sport next year bodes well for the future of the sport.
“Lots of new people will be coming in and feeding into the AVP system and, hopefully, some girls will make the Olympics. So it’s awesome,” she said.
LMU reached the final by defeating Webber International of Florida, while Delaware knocked off Hawaii in the other semifinal.
UCSB’s team of Rebecca Saraceno-Lauren McLaughlin defeated UCLA and Santa Clara and fell to Hawaii and Webber International.