Beach Begins Practice for 2020 Season

by Grant Kauvar | Communications Graduate Assistant
Beach Begins Practice for 2020 Season

BATON ROUGE –  On a perfect Wednesday afternoon at LSU Beach Volleyball Stadium, the Tigers kicked off practice for the 2020 season with one of their most experienced rosters to date.

“More than any other spring when we’ve started practice,” explained head coach Russell Brock, “this has been the closest to being ready that we’ve ever been. We have to keep pushing and finding ways to get better and to fine tune things that are going to give us an opportunity to be successful this year.”

Ever since coach Brock took the reigns as head coach in 2017 after serving as the associate head coach for the program’s first three seasons, he has ignited greatness in the sand, leading LSU to three consecutive appearances as one of the final eight teams at the NCAA Championship in Gulf Shores.

After being ranked in the AVCA Top-10 for the entirety of the last three seasons and finishing as the No. 3 team in the country in 2019, the Tigers enter 2020 with perhaps their best squad yet as they head into the programs seventh year of existence.

“There’s a balance between understanding how good we really are and not letting that negatively impact our desire to improve,” said Brock, the reigning DiG Magazine Coach of the Year.

The Team

LSU will be led by a group of six seniors; Claire Coppola, Kristen Nuss, Toni Rodriguez, Olivia Powers, Taryn Kloth and Jess Schaben

“Our senior group is incredibly strong and they’re on a mission,” said Brock. “They are leading from the front and they are actively involved with our whole roster.”

Coppola and Nuss have been playing together since their freshman season and have been one of the most dominant forces in the country for three season. In 2020, the Tigers’ pair on Court 1 will look to become the first LSU duo to win 100 matches together as they sit at 91 victories heading into their final season.

Aside from Coppola and Nuss, LSU returns six other players who won at least 15 matches in 2019. Sophomores Kelli Agnew and Allison Coens were each named to the CCSA All-Freshman team last year and sophomore Ashlyn Rasnick-Pope along with Rodriguez were both named to the CCSA All-Tournament team.

Junior Hunter Domanski returns after earning 47 victories over the past two seasons and Powers sits at 56 career victories, eighth most in program history. 

Additionally, LSU added five freshmen that all have significant experience playing beach volleyball along with Jess Schaben, a three-time indoor All-American graduate transfer from Iowa State.

The Schedule

After competing against top competition Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic in Honolulu to open the season, LSU will return home to LSU Beach Volleyball Stadium for its earliest home competition in program history, February 29-March 1, for the Tiger Beach Challenge.

LSU will compete against the two-time defending national champions UCLA Bruins twice to open the season, both in Hawaii and on February 29 at LSU Beach Volleyball Stadium. The Tigers and Bruins will match up once more on April 11 in Los Angeles.

“We get out and test ourselves right away,” said Brock. “I think the better thing this year is we have tough competition all the way through.”

In all, LSU will face nine teams this regular season that finished 2019 in the AVCA Top-20.

Throughout the season LSU will also make trips to Fort Worth, Gulf Shores, Columbia, S.C.

The Tigers will host additional home events at the LSU Beach Invitational, March 13-14, and the Battle on the Bayou, March 28, as well.

The CCSA Tournament will be held in Huntsville, Alabama for the first time, moving away from its previous home in Emerson, Georgia. The NCAA Championship will return to Gulf Shores in May.