Women’s collegiate sand VB nationals have local flavor

Three local women will be competing in the second AVCA Sand Volleyball National Championships this weekend in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Sisters and former Dos Pueblos stars Caitlin and Taylor Racich play for top-ranked, undefeated and defending national champion Pepperdine while Eve Ettinger, a former Santa Barbara High standout, is a member of fourth-ranked USC’s sand team.

The tournament field has local ties in coaching, too. Santa Barbara grad and former UCSB women’s indoor team assistant coach David Fischer is the head sand coach for Louisiana-Monroe. His assistant is women’s indoor coach Patrick Hiltz, a San Marcos graduate.

Six teams will be vying for the second national title. Joining Pepperdine, USC and Louisiana-Monroe are Long Beach State, North Florida and Florida State.

Caitlin Racich, a senior, helped Pepperdine win the national title last year. She also is the defending pairs champion, winning with Summer Ross. Her partner this season is freshman Lara Dykstra of Redondo Beach. They play as the Waves’ No. 2 team and have a record of 21-4.

Taylor Racich, a freshman, plays at No. 4 with senior Victoria Adelheim of Rancho Santa Fe. They are 12-1 in duals.

Ettinger and partner Bria Russ of Long Beach play as USC’s No. 3 team. The sophomores have a record of 11-8.

The team championship will begin on Friday, May 3 and the champion will be crowned on Saturday. A double elimination format will be used in the preliminary rounds, while the semifinal and title match will be single elimination.

The pairs championship will begin with the 10 “Best of the Rest” duos (individual pairs from teams not selected to compete in the team championship) engaged in pool play on Friday and Saturday.  The top two finishers will be seeded into Sunday’s 16-team single elimination bracket. Ten pairs from the team championship squads will advance automatically to Sunday’s championship bracket.  The last two positions will be determined by a play-in on Saturday afternoon