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Sand volleyball breaks in new stadium with second-place finish

Playing in its brand new facility for the first time, Stanford’s women’s sand volleyball team hosted the NorCal Invitational this past weekend with three pairs reaching the semifinals in the pairs tournament and the Card finishing second overall in the team tournament.

The Card started the tournament and its 2015 season with a 5-0 sweep over Sacramento State on Friday in the team competition. All five pairs won in only two matches, winning the best-of-three handily. Stanford ultimately finished runner-up to Pacific after beating Santa Clara 3-2 and falling to the Tigers 5-0 in the championship.

At the conclusion of the team portion of the tournament, the teams were split into brackets based on seeding for the pairs tournament. Junior Brittany Howard and senior Lauren Birks represented Stanford as its number one pair. They eventually advanced to the semifinals, where they lost in three games to Santa Clara’s one seed.

The freshmen showed great promise in their sand volleyball debut, with both all-freshman pairs — Petra Grutzik with Catherine Raquel and Sarah Benjamin with Karina Robinson —  making appearances in the semifinals. These players (with the exception of Benjamin, who also plays indoor volleyball) were recruited specifically for the sand volleyball season.

After playing on the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation (ACSR) courts for the first two years of the program’s existence, the Card finally have a place to call home at one of the nation’s top sand volleyball facilities. With four courts surrounded by 10 palm trees over 100 years old, the only thing that’s missing is the ocean.

Stanford will take a three-week hiatus from competition before the team returns to Stanford Sand Volleyball Stadium to play San Jose State on April 1.

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.  

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