By James Hemker
Stanford beach volleyball (0-0) begins its season tomorrow in Hawaii at the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic. At the Classic, the preseason No. 11 Cardinal will have the opportunity to play against a few of the best teams in the nation.
Stanford will face No. 1 UCLA (0-0) and No. 4 Pepperdine (0-0) on Saturday before clashing with Saint Mary’s (0-0) and No. 5 Hawai’i (0-0) on Sunday.
Last year, the Cardinal split matches, 1-1, with Saint Mary’s. UCLA, the eventual NCAA champions, beat the Cardinal four separate times, and Hawai’i bested Stanford twice. This will be the program’s first meeting with Pepperdine.
Stanford has consistently improved under head coach Andrew Fuller, who enters his third year at the helm. Last season, the team set a program record with 17 wins. The team’s No. 11 ranking is eight spots higher than last year’s preseason ranking.
“Beach volleyball is very much tied into the lifestyle and culture of the Islands.” Fuller said of the Classic. “Playing in Honolulu at Queen’s Beach, immersed in the culture and history of our sport, creates a fun atmosphere to play in, especially for our opening weekend.”
The Cardinal squad is a young one, with Courtney Bowen as the team’s only senior. The 6’4” Bowen is the all-time individual wins leader (43) for the Cardinal. Bowen shares the single-season individual wins record (23) with sophomore Sunny Villapando.
Five new freshmen join the team: Tori Ashkinos, Maddie Dailey, Melissa Daniel, Charlie Ekstrom and Jordan McKinney. Including Bowen and Villapando, eight members of the 2018 roster return: Kat Anderson, Morgan Hentz, Chelsea Red-Horse Mohl, Shannon Richardson, Blake Sharp and Amelia Smith.
Despite the tough matchups this weekend, Stanford will look to begin the year better than its 0-4 start last season.
UCLA is set for 11 a.m. PST on Saturday, with Pepperdine following at 2 p.m. PST. On Sunday, the Cardinal will face Saint Mary’s at 2 p.m. PST and Hawai’i at 5 p.m PST.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.