Championship Sand

0
355
Madalyn Roh against USC

Pepperdine Waves beach volleyball pair Corrine Quiggle and Deahna Kraft are a dominating duo on the sand. The West Coast Conference’s Pair of the Month for March have spiked, dug and blocked their way through opponents all season to garner a 22-5 record. 

Quiggle, a senior from Florida, said she and Kraft, a sophomore from Washington, who are also best friends, are both driven to win, but show it differently. Kraft is the fiery one, who gets her teammate excited, whereas Quiggle, a 2017 VolleyballMag.com second team All-American in 2017, is steadier.

“We work well together,” Quiggle said. “We can be competitive and honest with each other when we are on the court no matter what happens. We’ve had some hard times and some good times. No matter what happens we are always friends.”

Quiggle said she and her partner’s dynamic can be found in the Waves’—ranked second in the American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings—other four pairings: Brook Bauer and Madalyn Roh, Heidi Dyer and Gigi Hernandez, Skylar Caputo and Alexis Filippone, and Maddie Dilfer and Nikki Lyons. It’s a good thing, too, because Pepperdine, on the heels of winning its third consecutive WCC title, is heading to this weekend’s NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball National Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala., playing its best volleyball of the season. 

Quiggle said the Waves, owners of a 24-3 record, prepared as hard as possible to contend for college beach volleyball’s crown. 

“Now, we are going all out,” she said. “We don’t expect anything. We know we have to work hard for everything we get.” 

Pepperdine, seeded second in the three-day championships, will face seventh-seeded LSU in the opening round. The 9 a.m. PT contest will be air on ESPNU. The later rounds on Saturday and Sunday will be broadcast on ESPN2 and the final, also on Sunday, will be shown on ESPN. 

Pepperdine has beaten LSU three times this season, once, 4-2, and 3-2 the other times. 

The second seeding is the highest placement Pepperdine has had in the championships since the eight-team tournament’s founding in 2016. The squad was seeded third the past two seasons. 

The Waves advanced to the championship game in 2017, where they were defeated by rival USC. This season, UCLA is the event’s top seed and Hawaii is seeded after Pepperdine. Florida State is fourth, USC is fifth, South Carolina is sixth and Florida International is eighth. 

Pepperdine coach Nina Matthies led the Waves to AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championships in 2012 and 2014 before the NCAA made beach volleyball a full-fledged college sport. The coach, retiring at the end of the season, said with classroom finals and school graduation events days behind them, the Waves are now solely focused on their craft. 

“We are ready to move forward,” Matthies said. “We are playing some pretty good ball right now. We are in a really good spot, physically and mentally.” 

She said the Waves have a winning mindset.

“Winning never gets old,” Matthies said. “Losing is tough but winning is not.”

Pepperdine served up winning performances all season. The team has a 24-3 record with two of the losses happening in a tournament in February, the first month of the season. After the last of those defeats, Pepperdine won 12 straight matchups before losing to UCLA on March 27. Pepperdine then won six consecutive contests before rolling through the two-day WCC Championships in Santa Monica for the third season in a row. 

Pepperdine defeated Pacific on April 20 and beat Saint Mary’s twice the next day to claim the title. All the wins were 5-0. 

Pepperdine has 13 players on the squad this season. Many of the team’s opponents have lineups composed of more than 20 people. Quiggle said the Waves’ small roster gave the girls a chance to connect more with each other. 

“Everyone has a role,” she said. “Everyone is needed. Everyone contributes to how the team does. It’s a cool culture we have.”

Matthies said the Waves’ success is rooted in great technique on the sand, playing well as a team and staying focused on goals.

“They have been staying on a pretty even keel and just doing their jobs,” she said. “I’m pretty happy where we are as a team.”

Just a few days before the championships’ seedings were announced, five Waves received WCC All-Academic honors. Quiggle, Dilfer and Roh were named to the first team. Dyer and Caputo received honorable mention status. 

Quiggle said Matthies’ pending retirement is motivation for the Waves. 

“We all work hard, especially this year for Nina,” she said. “We don’t necessarily talk about it all the time. I think it’s an unsaid driver for us. Our team is so driven and single-mindedly focused. It is an unspoken motivator for each girl on the team. It is something that unifies us.”

Matthies said now isn’t the time to discuss the closure of her storied volleyball career as an indoor and beach volleyball coach, and before that her years as a successful volleyball player. The focus is on the NCAA title. 

“I will deal with my retirement when I finished,” she said. “Right now, I’m just trying to finish up the season.”