By James Hemker
This weekend, No. 12 beach volleyball (0-4, 0-0 Pac-12) will travel to Bear Down Beach at the University of Arizona to square up against No. 2 USC (1-1, 0-0 Pac-12), Oregon (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12) and the host No. 14 Wildcats (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) in the Pac-12 South Invitational. Saturday and Sunday will give the Cardinal their first look at the rest of the conference — aside from No. 1 UCLA (6-0, 0-0).
“It’s really cool to get together as a Pac-12 group,” head coach Andrew Fuller said. “It’s such a rad conference in terms of strength and diversity of geography, facilities and styles of play.”
The Cardinal are still seeking their first win of the season after an 0-4 run at the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic in Hawai’i last weekend. Despite the lack of wins, Fuller was impressed by the resolve the team showed, especially in a very close 2-3 loss against host No. 6 Hawai’i (2-2, 0-0 Big West).
“I thought the response by the team was awesome with Hawai’i,” Fuller said. “They competed well and had a pretty good shot at winning that dual at Queen’s Beach against Hawai’i in front of the home crowd. It was noteworthy that the one’s and two’s won their matches because that’s where the whole crowd is, and so they were up against all of that as well.”
The Classic also featured all five freshmen playing the first games of their collegiate careers, which led to some unpredictability — but the experience gained was just as important.
“I thought they played well as group,” Fuller said of the freshmen. “The first time, you’re unsure about how they’re going to respond to in game changes, and they showed some really good responses. We learned a ton about them.”
The goal for the coaching staff is to find pairings that work well, and then leave them alone so the pairs of girls can build up their familiarity and chemistry with each other. Since it is still so early in the season, nothing is set in stone — so expect new lineups this weekend. The team prepares for this by promoting uniform communication across the group so that theoretically, any two girls could play together and be on the same page.
“It is early in the season so it is a good time to make those changes,” Fuller said. “It should be pretty simple to move pieces because of our uniform offensive system and language norms in terms of communication for set calls and defensive calls. When we do switch partners up we try to make sure that those changes can happen pretty seamlessly.”
Stanford will play Oregon on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. PST and USC a couple of hours later at 2:15 pm. PST. Sunday’s only match will be against Arizona at 10:30 a.m. PST.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.