No. 15 BeachBows head out as No. 3 seed in Big West Tournament

Hawai'i Athletics photo

AVCA Collegiate Beach Top 15

Big West Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament

At Rosie’s Dog Beach, Long Beach, Calif.

Seeds: No. 1 Cal Poly, (19-8). No. 2 Long Beach State (16-12),.No. 3 Hawai’i (14-8). No. 4 UC Davis (9-15). No. 5 CSU Bakersfield (4-8) . No. 6. CSUN,(10-10) .No. 7 Sacramento State (0-7).

  • Double elimination
  • All times HST
  • Friday
  • 6 a.m.–1 p.m.
  • Saturday
  • 7 a.m.-9 a.m.
  • Final: 10 a.m. (11 a.m. if needed)
  • Livestats: beachlivestats.com

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By Cindy Luis

When searching for a metaphor for the Hawai’i beach volleyball season, look no further than an hour glass. 

A small one. With a limited amount of sand.

That’s because the BeachBows got a late start on the season and were at least a week behind the majority of the teams around the country In beginning competition. And with COVID protocol affecting travel both to and from the islands, Hawai’i didn’t have its first match until March 23.

Compare that to last season where the BeachBows were already 7-2 after finishing the Bay Area Classic at Stanford on March 1. Then the pandemic shutdown cancelled all spring NCAA sports like an incoming tide washing away a sand castle that took hours to build.

This week, that hour glass has flipped with the start of the “second season.” Hawai’i, remaining at No. 15 in the national poll, packs a 14-8 record and the No. 3 seed when leaving Wednesday for the Big West Championship Tournament in Long Beach, Calif.

It’s a two-day competition that has no automatic berth into next week’s NCAA Championship, again being held at Gulf Shores, Ala. Even if Hawai’i were to win its fourth conference title, and first since 2018, the BeachBows’ chances of making the postseason look more like the top half of that hour glass: empty.

“The selection is out of our hands,” first-year coach Angelica Ljungqvist said during Tuesday’s Zoom call with the media. “All we can do is go play in the Big West Tournament and win that title.”

The NCAA selection committee chooses three teams from the west region, three teams from the east, with two at-large bids that can come from either area. Hawai’i got an at-large bid in 2019 when making its fourth straight NCAA appearance.

The BeachBows have advanced to the postseason in seven of the eight national tournaments since the sanctioning of the sport in 2012, missing only the second event run by the AVCA in 2013. Hawai’i has been in all four of the NCAAs, finishing third twice and fourth twice.

A look at this week’s poll shows Hawai’i’s chances of making it 5-for-5 very, very slim. The west region includes eight of the top 11 teams: USC (1), UCLA (2), Loyola Marymount (5), Cal Poly (6), Arizona (8), Stanford (9), Grand Canyon (10) and Cal (11).

The BeachBows rank as the eighth team in the west, with losses to four of the teams ahead of them: Cal Poly (3 times), Arizona (once), Stanford (once) and Cal (once). Their other losses were to current No. 18 Long Beach State (twice).

What Hawai’i could do by winning the Big West Tournament is to knock defending conference tournament champion Cal Poly out of at-large consideration. Depending how the double-elimination bracket goes, the BeachBows would not see the top-seeded Mustangs until possibly Saturday morning.

Hawai’i last played on April 18 in Seattle, edging host Washngton 3-2 and losing 4-1 to Arizona. The dual with the Wildcats was closer than the final score with the BeachBows losing the final two flights 2-1, Set 3 at Flight 1 16-14 and Set 3 at Flight 5 15-13.

Half of Hawai’i losses have been 3-2.

“The bye week has been really good,” Ljungqvist said. “We got some extra reps in at home. I’ve had time to add details that I thought we needed and I’m hopeful that it will help us down the stretch.

“We’re getting better and better every single day and it’s bittersweet that it’s coming to an end. I wish we had a longer season because once we started to compete we started really improving. I feel very confident in our growth and we’re heading in the right direction.”

Unfortunately for the BeachBows, it appears that time has run out on making enough of a run to get into the NCAA Tournament. But there’s still enough sand in that hour glass to add “2021” to the Big West champions banner hanging on the side wall of the Ching Complex campus courts.