The Big West beach volleyball tournament this weekend will feature three teams ranked top 10 in the nation. No. 3 Hawaii, No. 4 Cal Poly and No. 6 Long Beach State will battle for the Big West Conference Championship trophy and an opportunity to make the NCAA tournament.
The tournament will begin at 1 p.m. Friday, when the fourth seeded CSUN takes on fifth seed CSU Bakersfield. Long Beach State earned the third seed and will face against six seed Sacramento State at 2 p.m. in the double-elimination team competition.
“We have to just play loose, because there’s nothing to lose,” Sasha Karelov said. “We’re so nervous all the time for every big game, let’s just go out and relax because everyone wants us to fail anyways… So let’s just prove them wrong, you know?”
The team is going into the tournament battling multiple injuries, with sophomore Hailey Harward recovering from a right shoulder injury, junior Anete Brinke suffering a concussion and junior Emma Kirst facing back injuries. Through her recovery, Harward has played both against UCLA and in the LBSU Tournament.
Along with the regular team conference, the Big West Tournament has introduced a Pairs Championship, with 16 teams selected for a single-elimination tournament.
Nele Barber and Karelov were chosen as the fourth seed, Megan Kruidhof and Rachel Nieto were placed as the sixth seed and Harward and Kristyna Adamcikova were picked as the 10 seed. Adamcikova/Harward will play first at 1 p.m., facing Kan/Weaver of Hawaii. Kruidhof/Nieto will play in the second wave of matches at 2 p.m. against Hansen/Haynes of CSUB, while Barber/Karelov will also play at 2 p.m. against the 13 seed, Brown/Nocetti of Sacramento State.
The winner of Long Beach and Sacramento will play Cal Poly, while the loser will play in the consolation bracket. Top seed Hawaii and second seed Cal Poly will have an extra day to prepare after locking in a first-round bye.
In the regular season, Long Beach was swept by Hawaii and fell to Cal Poly 3-2. It will be a testament of the 49ers’ progression this season if they can rally for a victory against both of these teams.