Beach Volleyball Seeks Title

The CSULB women’s volleyball team – once again opening the season ranked in the nation Top 25 – takes to the court to begin a grueling three-hour practice. Players warm-up under four waving “NCAA Champions” banners that decorate the rafters of the Pyramid, reminders of glory years past.

Women’s volleyball is a CSULB staple, like sneaking into the Brotman Hall fountain for a midnight splash. Head coach Brian Gimmillaro stalks the court, ready to begin his 23rd season at the helm.

“We’re an older team, and we’re trying to match the tradition and the history that comes with this program,” Gimmillaro says. “We’re trying to make the students proud and have something to brag about. The students have always supported our team.”

He has spent more than two decades turning CSULB into a national powerhouse. Of about 330 women’s volleyball teams, Long Beach State is one of just four that has made the past twenty NCAA tournaments.

The 49ers will almost assuredly make it twenty-one this season, but they’ve got bigger fish to fry.

“NCAA championship,” says three-time All-American senior blocker Alexis Crimes. “That’s my only goal.” Historically, CSULB women’s volleyball aims high, and if Gimmillaro and the rest of the 49ers share that dream, they’ll need to ride Crimes’ back.

She will already go down as one of the best in the school’s storied history. Crimes ranks in the top ten in six school categories, and with another season to go – her last to fully establish her dominance over the Big West Conference – many of those records are sure to shatter.

During the summer, Crimes trained for the season by playing pick-up games on the beach with junior setter Nicole Vargas – a first team All-Big West selection who averaged over 12 assists per game last season. So while you couldn’t pay me to get in front of a kill from Quincy Verdin – she drilled balls into the thigh of an unsuspecting Sarah Hudson and nearly caught Crimes in the head during practice – Vargas may end up being the most important player on the entire team.

Crimes says that playing beach volleyball together over the summer only made them stronger as a pair. With one serving to the other – and “the other” being among the nation’s top hitters – the team will count on them for nearly every point. They’ve got a long road to travel to match last year’s second round Tournament appearance. But the talent is there, and Crimes feels like it’s all coming together.

“This year we’re working at being a team that works as one, instead of six individuals,” she says. It’s a scary thought for anyone lined up against the 49ers this season. Following this weekend’s three-game road swing at the St. John’s Volleyball Tournament, the challenges continue with tough matches against #7 Florida and #8 Washington.

So check out women’s volleyball as they seek a fifth national championship this season. You can find them in that enormous blue triangle on campus.

Share this: