Pepperdine Women's Sand Volleyball Embarks on 2013 Season on Saturday vs. FIU

Kim Hill

March 6, 2013

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MALIBU, Calif. -- The 2012 inaugural season of sand volleyball couldn’t have gone any better for Pepperdine. The Waves dominated the competition, went undefeated and took home the first-ever AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Team Championship. Caitlin Racich and Summer Ross put a little more frosting on the cake when they took home the pairs title as well. But that was 2012. This is 2013, with new faces in the sand and new teams to compete against. Although the Pepperdine women’s sand volleyball team opens their second campaign armed with a #1 ranking, the Waves are taking nothing for granted and are ready to defend their national title.

At least 30 schools are expected to field sand volleyball teams in 2013, doubling from 2012.

The Waves have five sand-only players – three of which began their Pepperdine careers as members of the indoor squad – including veterans Racich (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos HS), Lilla Frederick (Huntington Beach, Calif./Cornelia Connelly HS), Kim Hill (Portland, Ore./Christian HS) and newcomers Lara Dykstra (Redondo Beach, Calif./Redondo Union HS/Nebraska) and Lauren Sieckmann (Omaha, Neb./Elkhorn South HS/Wayne State College).

In addition to Racich, Frederick and Hill, four players from last season’s lineup return including Kelley Larsen (Jamul, Calif./Christian HS), Kellie Woolever (Long Beach, Calif./Woodrow Wilson HS), Victoria Adelhelm (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif./Santa Fe Christian HS) and Emily Cook (Huntington Beach, Calif./Murrieta Valley HS). Katie Messing (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands HS) is also expected to make an impact for the Waves after redshirting in 2012.

New faces on Pepperdine’s roster include freshman Taylor Racich (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos HS) and junior Jazmine Orozco (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood HS/Illinois).

Larsen, Woolever, Adelhelm, Cook, Messing, Taylor Racich and Orozco all compete for Pepperdine’s indoor volleyball as well.

The Waves boast one of the top coaching staffs in the country in Nina Matthies, Marcio Sicoli and Jon Dazé. Matthies was widely recognized as one of the world's top volleyball beach players as evidence by her 43 titles and 93 podium finishes. Matthies, who has coached Pepperdine’s indoor team for 30 years, spearheaded a successful effort in the mid-80s to create the Women's Professional Volleyball Association (WPVA). 

Assisting her is Sicoli, who also serves on the indoor coaching staff. Sicoli coached Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings to their third-consecutive gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Racich, along with Ross, were crowned the top pair at the 2012 AVCA Championship last season after rallying from behind to beat Long Beach State’s Caitlin Ledoux and Tara Roenicke 16-14 in the third set.

Racich, an AVCA All-American as a junior, will have to defend her title without Ross this year, but Matthies is confident that her senior has what it takes to repeat.

“Caitlin has improved tremendously,” boast Matthies, now in her second season in the sand with the Waves and 30th overall at Pepperdine. “She has worked hard to become an effective primary blocker. In the past she worked more as a defender.

“She has taken on a big leadership role with this team and I just couldn’t be happier with her. She’s working hard and doing whatever she can to defend her title.”

Racich went 35-3 overall last season alongside Ross.

Fifth-year seniors Hill and Frederick posted a 25-9 record together last season, and reached the semifinals of the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Pairs Championship. Both were members of the inaugural sand volleyball AVCA All-American class in 2012.

The duo, who came to Pepperdine together in 2008 as members of the indoor team, are expected to close out their Wave careers playing side-by-side.

“They are my super seniors,” continued Matthies. “Kim and Lilla have taken a big step forward now that they are concentrating just on sand volleyball. They are both strong leaders and everyone looks up to them.

“Kim and Lilla are top-notch role models for the rest of the team. They’re both extremely competitive, and they back it up with the work they’ve put in training and in the weight room with our strength and conditioning coach, Matt Young.”

Joining the team is Dykstra, who spent two seasons as the starting libero for Nebraska.

“Lara brings a quiet steadiness to the team,” said Matthies. “She is a very confident, focused and experienced sand player. She’s been very open to our coaching style and her game improves daily. Lara fits in perfectly with the team and is going to become a great leader for us.”

Matthies’ praise wasn’t spared on the rest of her returners: “Everyone has improved. It’s incredible how much difference a year makes. We are so much further along right now than what we were at this point last year.

“Emily is strong, fit and just on fire right now. She is one of our most complete players. Kellie was tremendous last year is going to be great again for us in 2013.

“Victoria just keeps improving and gaining confidence. She’s a great partner – I feel confident pairing her with anyone on this team – and she sees the court well. And Kelley, she’s so steady. Her fitness level is tremendous and she moves and communicates well.”

With 10 available spots in the lineup, the Waves will have to rely on some new faces as well.

Messing, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who doubles as an outside hitter on the indoor squad, redshirted in her freshman season in the sand.

“Katie wants to play. She has been working hard in the weight room and in training, and she’s having fun doing it. She’s just a monster at the net, and her ball control and movement are equally impressive – especially considering how tall she is.”

Orozco transferred to Pepperdine prior to the 2012 indoor season and led the Waves to their 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance. She was named an AVCA All-American honorable mention as well as an All-West Coast Conference first team selection.

Although Orozco, standing at 6-1, grew up in Southern California, she doesn’t have quite as much experience in the sand as some of her teammates. Even so, Matthies in confident that Orozco will play a major role for the Waves in 2013: “It’s great to have someone with her height out there with such excellent ball control. She’s inexperienced, so she’s a little behind, but she’s catching up at a rapid pace.”

Two true freshmen will also be in the hunt for a spot in the lineup including Taylor Racich, Caitlin’s younger sister, and Sieckmann.

“Taylor is a coaches’ dream,” exclaimed Matthies, “You tell her to jump and she asks how high. She’s so fast in the sand and has a great sense of the game. Her left hand is just wicked out there and she’s a lot of fun to watch.”

“Lauren is probably the least experienced of all the girls,” said Matthies of the Nebraska native, “but she’s very fast and coordinated. She’s catching up to the learning curve fast.”

Pepperdine’s season opens on Saturday, March 9 against Florida International. The dual, held at Zuma Beach, is slated to begin at 10 a.m.

“We are just so excited to compete against someone else after all this time competing against each other,” Matthies said. “I believe we have a strong team as a whole, with a lot of quality pairing options that we can toy with depending on who we play. Everyone plays with everyone during practice, so where we start out (in terms of lineup) might not be where we end.

“The girls have been so excited and on fire to play. Doesn’t matter – rain, shine, cold, hot, windy – they are happy to be at training every day.”

COVERAGE - Full results and recaps will be posted on following the competition, while live updates and other coverage can be followed on Twitter @PepperdineWVB.

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FIU - Florida International opens its first year of sand volleyball on Friday vs. Grand Canyon. FIU will likely be led by graduate student and AVCA All-American Kate Stepanova, who completed her undergraduate degree at Florida State and helped the Seminoles to a third-place finish at the national championship in 2012.

PEPPERDINE TRADITION - Pepperdine is no stranger to winning national titles. Since 1947, the Waves have won 21 various championships. At the NCAA level, Pepperdine has claimed nine team championships (Men’s Volleyball, 5; Baseball, 1; Men’s Golf, 1; Men’s Water Polo, 1; Men’s Tennis, 1) and three individual titles (men’s tennis: 2 doubles champions, 1 singles champion). The Waves have also won national team and individual titles at the NAIA level back in the 1950’s and clinched its first championship when the now defunct football team won the 1947 Small College crown. The Waves’ 2012 AVCA National Championship titles, both the team and the pairs, were Pepperdine’s first national championships captured by any of their women’s teams

ZUMA BEACH - The Waves call Zuma Beach “home,” practicing and hosting all home events at one of Malibu’s most picturesque locations. Courts are located just beyond Point Dume when traveling from campus, or near the 29800 block of the Pacific Coast Highway.

COMING SOON! - The Waves announced that Delaney Knudson will join the team in 2014. Knudson committed to the Waves back in November and is the program’s first National Letter of Intent signee. A product of Valencia, Calif., Knudson has held a AAA rating in the California Beach Volleyball Association rankings since the age of 16.

Nina Matthies - Nina Matthies’ just completed her 30th season as head coach for the indoor team and boasts a career record of 575-332 (.634), which includes 10 conference championships and 20 NCAA Tournament appearances. She is by far the WCC’s all-time winningest coach and is a 10-time WCC Coach of the Year. Matthies was among the world’s top players and is a member of the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame. In 2009, Dig Magazine rated her and former partner Linda Hanley as the second-best women’s beach team of all time. She won two AIAW national championships as a player at UCLA.

THE FORMAT - This week Pepperdine will compete in a dual format, similar to college tennis, where the No. 1 pair from one school plays the No. 1 pair from the opposing school, No. 2 vs. No. 2 and so on and so forth. A team must win three of the five matches in order to clinch the team victory.

SAND VOLLEYBALL 101 - Each team competition is called a dual and will consist of five pairs from one school versus five pairs from another school. Each match is worth one point towards the team score. In this best-of-five format, a winner is determined when a team scores at least three points (similar to how collegiate tennis duals are contested).

The separate matches consist of a best-of-three sets, with rally scoring to 21 in the first two sets and to 15 in the third set if necessary. Teams must win by at least two points.

Pairs competitions will also be held this season, with the two-person teams being placed in brackets and playing in single or double elimination tournaments.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? - There are a few key elements of sand volleyball that differ from its indoor counterpart. No open hand tipping is allowed and the block touch counts as the first of three allowable contacts. Coaches may only speak to players or give instruction during timeouts or between sets. Finally, to make a level playing field with regards to impact of the sun and wind, the players switch sides of the court every seven points in a 21 point set, and every five points in a 15 point set. The court is also smaller at 8x8 meters, while the indoor court measures 9x9 meters.

WHAT’S AN EMERGING SPORT? - Collegiate sand volleyball is an “emerging sport.” It has 10 years to gain the minimum 40 sponsoring institutions for two years in a row to be considered an NCAA Championship sport.

VOLLEYBALL HISTORY — The Pepperdine women’s sand volleyball program has been at the forefront of the sport since it was introduced in 2012. The Waves went a perfect 14-0 in dual match play and won the inaugural AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Team Championship in Gulf Shores, Ala.  Pepperdine’s Caitlin Racich -- the program’s first-ever scholarship recipient -- and partner Summer Ross took home the pairs national crown as well.  Racich and Ross, as well as Kim Hill and Lilla Frederick, were all named to the 10-member inaugural sand volleyball AVCA All-American class. Hill stands as the first, and to date only, student-athlete to earn AVCA All-American first team honors in both indoor and sand volleyball in a single season.

ABOUT PEPPERDINE — Pepperdine boasts a one-of-a-kind athletic department with unprecedented success for a school of its size. The Waves have won NCAA Division I championships in five different men’s sports - one of just 16 schools to have accomplished this feat - and nine overall. Of this elite group, Pepperdine has the smallest enrollment and is the only school not in a major conference. Located in scenic Malibu, Calif., the university overlooks the Pacific Ocean and its campus and athletic facilities are regularly voted among the nation’s most beautiful.



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