The surprising emergence of Amber Igiede as a force for the BeachBows

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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Angelica Ljungqvist never met a “no” she didn’t like. To the 1996 AVCA Player of the Year, “no” is just another way of saying, “We’ll see.”

The Swedish national saw her “nej” turn into “ja” when convincing Amber Igiede to overcome her fear of failure and come over to the Hawai’i beach volleyball team. It took several attempts by Ljungqvist before Igiede, a 2019 all-Big West first team selection as a freshman on the Rainbow Wahine indoor team, agreed to give the sand a shot.

But how does one say no to one of the most decorated Wahine in program history? Someone who knows of what she speaks as a former member of both the Swedish national indoor and beach teams?

“When she first asked, I said no,” Igiede said. “The sand was not for me. It’s a whole other game. I played a little in high school but I told my friends I’d never play in college.

“I was really hesitant. The fear was I wasn’t going to be good at it. But the more I play, the more I love it.”

What first-year BeachBows coach Ljungqvist — also the indoor associate head coach — saw was Igiede’s work ethic that matched her athletic ability. At 6-foot-3, Igiede is one of the few Hawai’i players who can literally see eye-to-eye with her 6-3 coach, and the Louisiana native has come around to seeing the benefits of crossing over that Ljungqvist has been touting.

“I was getting so frustrated in the beginning, it was hard,” Igiede said during Tuesday’s Zoom meeting with media. “I had to change my mindset, embracing the hardness.

“You have to make mistakes to get better.”

Igiede got more than better. She debuted in the first weekend at Flight 2, pairing with senior Pani Napoleon and going 2-2. 

Four matches in, Igiede made the unprecedented jump to Flight 1 where she and junior Brooke Van Sickle won their first three matches. After bouncing around between Flights 1 and 2, the pair have settled into the Flight 2 spot since April 10, winning eight straight heading into this week’s Big Wast Championship Tournament at Long Beach, Calif.

The duo earned the conference’s Pair of the Week on April 19, the only weekly honor for No. 15 Hawai’i (14-8) this season. 

“I’m really comfortable playing with Brooke,” Igiede said of her partner who is listed at 5-9. “She really inspires me. She has told me, ‘Just play your game. You don’t have to have 1,000 years of beach volleyball experience to play.

“We both came over from the same indoor team with the idea of let’s help out the (beach) team. We both love working hard.”

Igiede agreed that playing on the sand has helped her overall game.

“It’s just two people and you get to touch every other ball,” she said. “I’m a middle (indoor) and sometimes I can go through a whole front-row rotation without touching a ball. 

“I knew I was going to struggle but rather than throw myself a pity party I embraced the hardness, knowing that you’re coming out better than you thought. It teaches you that nothing in life comes easy.”

Igiede and Van Sickle are 12-6 as a pair, 9-1 in their last 10 matches at Flight 2. The early success was a little bit of a surprise to Ljungqvist.

“I’m really impressed with the work that Amber has done,” Ljungqvist said. “She picked it up really fast and that is hard to do. She comes in with a great attitude and talent. But we did not know if we’d see the fruits of her work this season.

‘I did get that first ‘no.’ She was hesitant but now she’s loving it. She’s touching the ball ever other time, That’s the charm of beach volleyball. I can’t wait to see how this makes her even better for the indoor season.”

“The more I play, the more I love it,” Igiede said. “I love working hard for my partner and for my team. 

“I want to win (the Big West Tournament title) so bad. It’s Coach Ang’s first year and we want to do it for her, the team and the coaching staff who have motivated us. They believe in us.”