Saraceno, McLaughlin join forces on West Beach

Rebecca Saraceno, this past season’s Big West player of the year from UCSB, will combine with former teammate Lauren McLaughlin to compete in the College Beach Volleyball Championships this weekend at West Beach.

The women’s doubles event is being held in conjunction with the AVP Santa Barbara Open and is part of CBS College Sports Network’s Alt Games. The action kicks off with pool play on Saturday morning at 8:30, with the final scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The tournament, which is being co-hosted by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, will feature 12 two-person teams representing colleges and universities from all over the country. They will compete for $5,000 in prize money and an automatic bid into the AVP Huntington Beach Open (June 4-6).

The players eligible for this event are college seniors from NCAA and NAIA institutions and athletes who have exhausted their collegiate eligibility with their final playing season between the Fall of 2007 and Fall 2009.

Sand volleyball was approved by the NCAA in January to be an emerging sport for women. The AVCA and the NCAA hope to have the framework set up to begin competition in 2011.

A number of good beach volleyball players have come out of UCSB, and Saraceno and McLaughlin hope to continue that tradition. They have experience, having both grown up playing on the beaches in the South Bay area.

McLaughlin, who finished her Gaucho career in 2008, was a two-time, first team All-Big West player. She ranks seventh on the school’s all-time kills list with 1,417.

Saraceno enjoyed a stellar senior campaign in 2009, leading UCSB to the NCAA Tournament. She was one of the top hitters in the country, averaging nearly five kills a set. She finished her career with 1,373 kills, which places her eighth on the all-time list.

The other teams in the tournament are:

UCLA: Kaitlin Sather, a 6-1 senior All-American; 6-foot Ali Daley, an All-Pac 10 honorable mention choice in 2007 and 2008.

UC Irvine: Devon Sutherland, UCI’s career digs leader in 2008; Kristin Kelly, a 6-2 middle blocker for the Anteaters in ’07 and ’08.

Concordia-Irvine: Lindsey Campbell, an All-GSAC outside hitter in 2007; Stephanie Scheele, 5-11, a 2008 NAIA All-American, Concordia’s all-time kill leader. They won the USAV Beach Collegiate Challenge Senior Division at Will Rogers State Beach on April 17 to qualify for the Santa Barbara event.

Cal: Hana Cutura, 6-4 from Croatia, a three-time All-American, 2009 Pac-10 Player of Year and Honda Award nominee; Kristen Kathan, a 5-6, senior libero and team captain on ’09 team.

Santa Clara: Crystal Matich, a 5-11 setter, 2007 WCC Player of Year; Lindsy Davigeadono, 6-3, a four-year starter, 2009 WCC first team.

Hawaii: Stephanie Brandt, a 5-9 setter on 2009 team that reached NCAA semifinals. A transfer from UCSB; Tara Hittle, a 6-foot outside hitter from 2008 team.

Delaware: Stephanie Barry, a record-setting libero, three-time all Colonial Athletic Association; Colleen Walsh, class of 2007, school-record 1,553 kills, led Hens to first CAA title, NCAA berth. Together, Barry and Walsh combined to set 12 program records.

Illinois: Lizzie Bazzetta, libero on 2009 team; and McCulley, a 5-11 hitter on ’09 team, notched 1,000 career kills.

TCU: Calli Corley, 5-7, four-year starter, class of 2007; Kourtney Edwards, 6-1 middle, 2009 AVCA honorable mention All-American.

Webber International, Babson Park, Fla.: Noelle Bay, 5-10 hitter; Trisha Belcher, a 5-7 senior setter, placed second in the silver division of a 48-team Siesta Key collegiate tournament and won a 12-team event hosted by Webber. The NAIA school has collegiate men’s and women’s sand volleyball teams. Belcher is missing her college graduation to play in Santa Barbara.

Loyola Marymount: Emily Day, 6-1, and Heather Hughes, 6-2, hold the distinction of being the lowest seeded qualifier to make an AVP main draw. They were 54th at the Long Beach Open in 2007 and advanced to play Misty May and Kerri Walsh in the first round. Both were All-West Coast Conference first team players in 2007. Day won AVP Young Guns event last year at Manhattan Beach.

CBS College Sports Network plans to televise the semifinals on May 16 and 20 and the finals on May 30. Action from West Beach will also be included in a special one-hour Alt Games highlight show on CBS on June 19.