If you haven’t been keeping up with beach volleyball, the Lions are putting on a show this season. The team’s 26-6 record and dominance over WCC opponents has earned them a No. 5 national ranking, which is the highest in the program’s history.
LMU is expected to make their first NCAA tournament appearance in May after the WCC tournament, but bringing home the coveted national championship trophy will not be easy. Other highly ranked teams like No. 1 USC, No. 2 FSU and No. 3 UCLA gave the Lions trouble this season, so LMU will have to figure out a way to beat the very best programs in the country.
It will be an uphill battle, but don’t count out LMU beach volleyball; they have the talent and determination to beat any opponent they’ll face, including the defending champion UCLA.
The beach volleyball team’s only losses during the regular season came against the aforementioned three highest-ranked teams in the nation, USC, FSU and UCLA. LMU steamrolled past every other team they faced, including some tough opponents like No. 9 Long Beach State University and No. 11 Pepperdine University.
UCLA has particularly been a pest for the Lions, handing LMU three of their six losses. None of these wins came easily for the Bruins, as LMU won at least one game in each matchup, which offers some hope that LMU can pull off the upset if these two teams meet again in the NCAA tournament.
Two of LMU’s pairs proved that they can beat UCLA during the regular season. Graduate students Savannah Slattery and Jessie Prichard defeated UCLA’s pairing of Harper Hallgren and Hailey Harward in two of their three matchups, and junior Reka Orsi Toth and senior Selina Marolf took two of three matchups from UCLA’s Abby Van Winkle and Lea Monkhouse.
USC will likely be an even more difficult opponent if LMU ends up facing them in the NCAA tournament. The Lions lost in a clean sweep during their first matchup, and Slattery and Prichard were the only LMU pair to pick up a win when the two teams met again.
No matter who LMU faces in the NCAA tournament, it is bound to be a challenge. The tournament only includes eight of the best teams in the nation, so there will be no easy wins.
LMU’s record against these top-ranked teams this season might not inspire a lot of hope, but they can still bring home an NCAA championship trophy if every pair performs at their highest level. The formidable duo of Slattery and Prichard has been able to beat the toughest teams in the country, but winning a national title will be a full team effort.
This is the opinion of Ellie Kinney, a junior communication studies major from Boston, Massachusetts. Tweet comments to @LAloyolan or email comments to email@example.com.