Pepperdine women’s beach volleyball team will begin its season with some tough competition on Saturday, March 4.
The fourth-ranked Waves will host rivals UCLA and USC, both also ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top five, in a round robin-style beach volleyball competition at Zuma Beach.
Pepperdine coach Nina Matthies said her team has been training since September, so they are ready to begin their 2017 campaign.
“We have been working really hard,” Matthies, a Pepperdine Hall of Fame member, said. “We are really excited to get the season rolling.”
Pepperdine’s roster includes an experienced bunch that advanced to beach volleyball’s championship tournament —the inaugural NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships in 2016 — for the sixth consecutive season last spring. Pepperdine finished 2016 with a 20-5 record and ranked fifth in the AVCA polls.
The winners of the inaugural West Coast Conference Championship have been predicted to win conference again this season, mostly due to the return of several experienced Waves who dominate on the sand.
The returning Pepperdine players include Preseason All-WCC Team members senior Delaney Knudsen, junior Corinne Quiggle and sophomores Heidi Dyer, Skylar Caputo and Madalyn Roh.
Matthies, the 2016 WCC Coach of the Year, said the whole team is poised to stand out.
“We have 18 kids, and I think everyone has improved,” the coach said. “We were very young last year with six freshmen, but now those freshmen are sophomores and have grown and matured. I look for all our returning kids to play well.”
At the Pepperdine kick-off, Pepperdine will face third-ranked UCLA at 10 a.m., then UCLA will play top-ranked and defending national champions USC at 11:15 a.m. Pepperdine will go against USC at 12:30 p.m. The Waves’ next contests will be on March 12 in Los Angeles. The squad will face No. 2 Florida State, then No. 8 Georgia State.
Matthies, a former beach volleyball star, said the stiff early-season competition will let the Waves know how good they are.
“We’ll get to see where we stand,” she said.
Pepperdine has 30 matches before the West Coast Conference Championships in Santa Monica in late April. The national championships will be in early May, again in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Pepperdine has vied for the top spot in beach volleyball at the close of every season since 2011. The Waves won the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volley Championships in 2012 and 2014.
Pepperdine’s coach said the team doesn’t try to get by on past successes. Matthies said Pepperdine’s players know “you’re only as good as your last match. We work hard, and if you train hard you have the background behind you to be able to perform well when you need to.”
Matthies said Pepperdine’s goal is to stay at the top of their conference, but added getting to Alabama again is always on their minds.
“That is our focus,” she said.