Long Beach State’s beach volleyball team ended their fall training block by participating in the inaugural SoCal NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Challenge in Manhattan Beach over the weekend.
The Beach played in six matches overall against UCLA, Pepperdine, Cal Poly SLO, Hawaii, Grand Canyon University and Loyola Marymount University. Long Beach State went 2-4, beating conference rivals Hawaii and Cal Poly.
“It’s great to see us doing well in our own conference,” head coach Mike Campbell said. “Even the losses were close games that we will take. Getting this experience is huge for [the players] and will help us in the spring.”
Last season was played under strict COVID-19 guidelines, which Campbell says impacted the team’s ability to come together as a family. This tournament provided an opportunity for the team to get together a good look at how other schools stack up against them.
“Last year we were coming back from the pandemic and we just hit the ground running and if anyone was left behind we didn’t have an opportunity to slow down,” Campbell said. “This weekend has been nice because we can rely on [returning players] to do their own thing and then we get to spend some time with the younger players and help them grow.”
Nicci Reinking, who is entering her last season, already sees the benefits of competing in offseason tournaments.
“In years past we’ve had trouble executing [plays],” Reinking said. “I definitely saw a lot of improvement. I’m looking at our videos and the stats in the reports, and everything looks really good. I’m really excited for the spring and what’s to come.”
The team will use the winter break to review videos and statistics to prepare for the preseason in January. The team players also hope to focus on team bonding for the upcoming season.
“Last year was pretty rough with Covid because we couldn’t bond super well as a team since we couldn’t hang out outside of practice, so that is a big emphasis this year,” Reinking said. “Now we do team bonding activities outside of practice, like eating together or riding together to practice, or just hanging out with each other. I think us coming together as a family in this tournament definitely showed.”
The SoCal NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Challenge was hosted by Mark Paaluhi and Butch Hendrick. Paaluhi and Hendrick are owners of Sand Court Experts, a beach volleyball court design and construction company. Paaluhi graduated from UCLA and played professional beach volleyball for 16 years and is considered one of the biggest voices for the sport.
“Southern California is widely referred to as the birthplace of beach volleyball so it made sense to have this inaugural event on Manhattan Beach,” Paaluhi said. “I’ve said before that college is the future of this sport and we are excited to bring the SoCal Challenge to another incredibly beautiful part of California.”
Coach Campbell and the team were “honored” by the invitation to play in the event.
“This weekend was quite the showcase of talent, there’s a lot of top-ten teams,” Campbell said. “This was the best way to end our fall training block. We really enjoyed ourselves and had fun.”