Coming off their first conference title in program history, the LMU beach volleyball team will look to meet and surpass last year’s success in 2020.
Last season, the Lions recorded a number of feats; in addition to defeating the No. 1 seeded Pepperdine Waves to win the West Coast Conference (WCC) Championships, the program also earned their best ever regular season record at 22-10, earning them the No. 2 seed in the seven-team tournament. Overall, the team went 9-2 versus conference opponents over the course of the season.
Yet despite their success, last year’s squad was not picked by the NCAA Beach Volleyball Committee as one of the top eight teams to compete at the 2019 NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
This year, the Lions hope to change that.
“We want to end up at the national championships,” said senior Savannah Slattery. “Going to Gulf Shores is the next big goal. The team expects and wants to win conference again, because we’re the same— if not better—than last year. Then our ultimate goal is to get to [the national championships] and make a run.”
This year, the Lions were ranked No. 8 in the nation in DiG Magazine’s preseason poll, and will need to stay within the top eight by the end of the season in order to achieve their goal of heading south for the national tournament.
To qualify for the NCAA tournament, however, the team must perform strongly in late-match situations if they hope to advance to the national stage, noted Slattery.
“I remember last season [there were] a lot of really big [matches] that kept us from going to Gulf Shores,” Slattery said. “We lost [some matches] by a couple points or one game, and it was a lot of close matches. That's something I think we need to improve this year — really closing out games, and getting those wins on those really tough teams to help our chances of going to [nationals].”
The team returns all but one of its players from last season and will be led by fifth-year head coach John Mayer. Senior Jessie Prichard credits Mayer and the coaching staff with helping her and her teammates improve significantly over the years.
“Our immense success last year in winning the WCC title came from our coaches,” said Prichard. “Their belief in the program and in us as players is unbeatable. Our team plays for each other,” she said.
Slattery noted that the team’s depth and ability to work as a group was also a key factor in their success last season and contributed to their high preseason ranking this season.
“Because each individual team has an importance and each win counts, having a lot of depth to our team and [having] everyone committed to one goal really [allows] us to play hard,” said Slattery.
Ultimately, Prichard credits the team’s grand achievements to the culture created within the program.
“Our team has a culture that we have built for many years through past seasons,” said the senior. “On our team, one person is not valued over another according to skill or age. We are all equals and work for the same goal, doing everything in our power to put us in the best position to win.”
The Lions will begin their journey with their season opener on Feb. 20 at UCLA, where they will face the defending national champion Bruins.