Rachel Nieto wiped her tears and Emma Kirst composed herself before the pair went back out onto the court to face Hawaii. They had to finish their game with the news that the team would not move on to the NCAA Championship. Hawaii celebrated on the other side, as Long Beach’s beach volleyball team’s season came to an end.
For a team that never dropped below the seventh spot in the nation, it was baffling that the team did not advance to the tournament. Long Beach finished the season 26-8, with its only losses coming from top five ranked teams, most being close losses. The team proved themselves worthy of playing among the best in the sport, beating No. 4 Cal Poly twice in the Big West Tournament.
Even head coach Mike Campbell, who’s coached the team level head through adversity, shared his frustration with the decision.
“It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is,” Campbell said. “We’re not in control of it, it’s the committee that makes the decision. It’s just disappointing and confusing being ranked in the top all year and moving our way up, improving all year…in the end it came down to us and LSU.”
Immediately following the announcement, the beach volleyball world flooded Twitter to speak out about its grievances with the decision, and for good reason.
The main point of contention was that out of the eight spots filled up, a team that never dropped lower than the seventh spot in the nation was not in one of those slots — with three other lower ranked teams chosen instead.
Out of the eight slots, three were chosen from the east, three from the west and another two at-large bids. The bid that Long Beach lost went to Louisiana State University, which was ranked eighth at the end of the season.
There were two things Long Beach could have done going into the Big West Tournament to make an argument for the postseason: win the tournament or upset a higher ranked team. Long Beach did one of those things, it defeated Cal Poly 3-2, 4-1.
The team was expected to move on.
I’m not saying the NCAA is rigged, or that the system is flawed. The problem is that it’s barely a system at all. This is just the third year the NCAA has hosted the championship, before then it was funded by the AVCA.
The NCAA doesn’t have a concrete process for how teams are chosen at the end of the season. There are four criterias that the committee considers for at-large bids: head-to-head competition, results versus common components, strength of schedule and overall record.
Long Beach checked all the criterias; it played top ranked teams in the nation and made a name for itself, yet its season ended before the team could get a chance to make a run in the championship.
The NCAA claims that there is not one area of focus considered higher than others, but when it came down to it, LSU was chosen over Long Beach because of its win over No. 5 USC.
For now, the damage has been done and Long Beach will have to wait another year before getting the chance to make a run for a championship. Let’s hope the NCAA can make the right decision next season.