STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford begins its second season of sand volleyball on Friday, March 7 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Cardinal, which is ranked 10th nationally, will play three dual matches at Queen’s Beach Sandbox in Waikiki on Friday before competing in the Rainbow Wahine Invitational on Saturday, March 8.
“It has been really fun to see the difference between this year and last year,” said head coach John Dunning. “Last year we actually had people who had never played in the sand before, so to contemplate the idea of the first day of a college practice you are talking about the rules was really interesting. We got off to a great start and had some success. It was really fun, and in a lot of different ways, it was very good for everyone in our program to have gone through the experience.
“The team has had a lot of time to think about last year and to see how to address this upcoming season. It is really neat to see that the attitude of the group as a whole walking onto the sand was different than last year.”
Stanford will take on No. 5 Hawai’i on Friday at 11 a.m. PT, defending national champion No. 3 Long Beach State at 2 p.m. PT and Loyola Marymount at 3 p.m. PT. Saturday’s action will be played in a tournament format.
The four schools will compete in a total of six dual matches on Friday. Each school will field five doubles teams ranked by ability. Each doubles team plays against the corresponding team or teams from other schools with each doubles match worth one point. The team meet is won by the school capturing three of the five matches. Saturday's Rainbow Wahine Invitational will include pool play in the morning followed by a championship, single-elimination bracket in the afternoon.
The Cardinal roster includes the returning members of the indoor team as well as senior Carly Wopat. Joining the squad this year are junior Lauren Birks (San Diego, Calif.) and sophomore Dana Ritchie (Santa Monica, Calif.).
“The sand presents challenges. It hard work, the conditioning level is ridiculous,” added Dunning. “It makes us appreciate Kerri [Walsh] even more. All that we have to learn is still there and it is daunting, but it is amazing how much we understand about the game this year compared to last year. The level we are starting at is so much higher and it is exciting.”
Stanford will return to The Farm for its home openers on Saturday, March 29. The Cardinal will welcome Hawai’i, UCLA and Santa Clara. The teams will play tournament matches on Sunday, March 30.
A brand new sand facility is being built on campus south of the softball and field hockey fields. The Cardinal hopes to open the stadium this spring, but no date has been set.
“It is kind of hidden back there. I go over there every day and check out the stage that we are in,” said Dunning. “We are so lucky that John Arrillaga stepped up and said I want to do this for the program. He has done that so many times, but there is no way you can take that for granted. We are very appreciative. It is going to be something special.”