No. 4 LSU beach volleyball heads to the NCAA Championships this weekend

LSU beach volleyball coach Russell Brock knew this season could be a special one.

The Tigers were bringing back all the pieces from their promising 2020 campaign, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. If they played up to their potential, Brock knew they would be in the mix when it came to championship weekend.

“Our job is to be as prepared as possible, because we know that everybody else is is gunning for it, and we’re not sneaking up on anybody,” Brock told 225 this offseason. “We need to do our job. We need to be as prepared as possible and be ready for those opportunities that lie ahead of us.”

That opportunity is finally here.

LSU is traveling to Gulf Shores, Alabama, this weekend to compete with the top eight teams in the country in the NCAA Championships.

The Tigers earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament but opened play by dropping a tight contest against No. 5 Loyola Marymount, 3-2.

The loss drops LSU into the elimination bracket, where it will take on No. 8 TCU at 1 p.m. today (Friday) in a loser-goes-home matchup. Despite the rocky start, the national title is not quite out of reach for the Tigers.

LSU can still maneuver its way into the championship game if it can rattle off four straight wins throughout the weekend.

The Tigers compiled a 25-7 record throughout the regular season, with their only losses coming to either the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country at the time. LSU fell to Florida State (the third seed this weekend) four times throughout the season, lost twice to UCLA (the top overall seed) and split two matches with USC (the No. 2 seed).

Matches for the tournament are played essentially as a best-of-five series. Doubles pairings face off on five different courts, and the first school to earn three wins advances to the next round.

Leading the way for the Tigers are Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss, who as a duo, haven’t lost a game all season. They’ll play on Court 1 like they have all season, boasting a perfect 32-0 record. The rest of LSU’s lineup is as follows:

Court 2: Claire Coppola and Kelli Greene-Agnew
Court 3: Ashlyn Rasnick-Pope and Toni Rodriguez
Court 4: Jess Lansman and Sydney Moore
Court 5: Olivia Ordonez and Kahlee York

LSU rounded out the regular season as runners up to Florida State in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association Championship at the end of April. The Tigers have now had two weeks to prep for the NCAA Championships, which Brock says is more mental work than physical.

“There’s not going to be a ton of improvement from a technical perspective,” Brock told LSU’s Tigers Win podcast. “You’re trying to polish and you’re trying to get your bodies to peak at the exact right moment. But really at this point, the most progress we can make is with our mentality. We’re going to push hard with our pairs to really try and develop in that space as we continue to push on our conditioning and our execution and our strategies.”

The championship final will take place Sunday at 12:30 p.m. You can catch all the weekend’s matches on either ESPNU (Friday) or ESPN2 (Saturday and Sunday).