NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship May 3-5 at Gulf Shores Public Beach

NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship May 3-5 at Gulf Shores Public Beach
Tourney will move to Huntington Beach for two years before hopefully returning for good

The three-time defending NCAA champion USC beach volleyball team (33-5) earned the top seed among 17 teams competing in the NCAA Championship at Gulf Shores Public Beach May 3-5. USC will face either Atlantic Sun champion North Florida (24-11) or Ohio Valley champion Chattanooga (19-9) in the round of 16 at 11 a.m. on May 3. The two bottom seeds play at 8 a.m. that same day.
All opening- and first-round matches are scheduled to be shown live on ESPNU. Quarterfinals and semifinals (May 4) will be carried live by ESPN2. The championship dual is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sunday and will also be shown live on ESPN2.
A record six Pac-12 teams earned berths in the national tournament. Conference runner-up UCLA (32-6) was assigned the No. 2 seed and was followed by No. 3 Stanford (31-5). California (19-13) will make its third appearance. The four California Pac-12 schools are joined by a pair of first-time participants in 12th-seeded Arizona State (21-9) and 13th-seeded Washington (20-15).
The Trojans—fresh off winning their fifth conference title—received the Pac-12’s automatic berth into the tournament field. It is the fourth time USC has been assigned the top seed in the national tournament. The Trojans were also seeded No. 1 in 2017 and 2022 when they won championships and in 2019 when they lost to UCLA in the final. USC has played in every NCAA tournament and has also held the No. 2 seed (2016, 2021), the No. 3 seed (2023), and the No. 5 seed (2018).
USC has won five NCAA titles including the first-ever championship awarded in 2016. The Trojans also won in 2017 to become the first-ever back-to-back NCAA champion and have won the last three (2021-23) to become first team ever to win three in a row.
The team is 27-4 all-time in NCAA duals with a 13-0 mark under fifth-year head coach Dain Blanton. Including Pac-12 tournament and AVCA championship duals, USC is 62-15 in all postseason duals with a 26-5 record under Blanton.
USC also won the final AVCA Collegiate Beach Championship in 2015 with a 28-0 record.
The Trojans are 2-0 against North Florida and played the Ospreys on the same date (May 3) in 2013 at the AVCA championship in Gulf Shores. USC also met UNF for a dual in Miami in 2023 (March 18). A meeting between USC and Chattanooga would be the first for the Trojans and the Mocs.
On the Trojans’ side of the bracket, a win in the round of 16 would pit them against either eighth-seeded West Coast Conference champion Loyola Marymount (27-13) or Big West champion Hawai’i (24-11) in the quarterfinals.
The Trojans claimed the final Pac-12 championship with USC set to depart for the Big Ten Conference in August. USC beach volleyball will move to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation at that time.
This is also the final year that the beach volleyball national championship is scheduled to be contested in Gulf Shores. The championship will move to Huntington Beach, Calif., in 2025 (May 2-4) and 2026 (May 1-3) with Long Beach State and the Orange Beach Sports Commission set to serve as hosts.
Gulf Shores has already submitted a comprehensive bid to host the tourney in 2026 and 2027 and included language in that bid to include the following two years as well, said city spokesperson Grant Brown.
This is the eighth time the city will host the tourney, and UCLA with consecutive wins in is the only other team besides USC to claim a national title here.
“For so many years, Alabama’s Beaches have provided a perfect home to showcase this amazing championship and have welcomed student-athletes, fans and staff so warmly,’’ said Kristin Fasbender, director of championships and alliances for the NCAA.
Next to the NCAA site, more than 375 junior beach volleyball teams will compete in the 2024 Gulf Coast Region BeachFest, the largest national qualifier for USA Volleyball in the country.
Tickets for the tourney can be purchased at
Gulf Shores has reaped the rewards from jumping on board the emerging popularity of beach volleyball by hosting national championship contests at the Public Beach since 2012, four years before the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctioned it as a championship sport.
Over 10,000 spectators – a record for the beach volleyball tournament – showed up to watch last year’s championships, and countless more viewed the contests on ESPN.
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism estimates the championships last year brought in over $1.5 million in economic impact, and a boost to its brand reputation from the national broadcasts. The fast-growing sport is the only collegiate national championship held in Alabama that is broadcast each year on national TV.
“Hosting a championship is a huge deal,” said Shawn Weaver, director of the Pleasure Island Volleyball Club (PIVC), which has played a role in growing beach volleyball in coastal Alabama. “I don’t think (state officials) see that. This thing has been held here since 2012, and it represents our state hugely.”
The American Volleyball Coaches Association hosted its sand volleyball national championships from 2012-2015, helping establish Gulf Shores as the nation’s home collegiate beach volleyball. A year later, the NCAA sanctioned beach volleyball as its 90th championship sport.
“It was the perfect marriage of timing, vision and resources,” recalled Kathy DeBoer, executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association who is retiring in June after 17 years.WQuarter final matches
CBS Sports broadcast the initial contests, before the games moved to the ESPN networks.
When the NCAA sanctioned beach volleyball in 2016, 868 student-athletes were participating in the sport. Close to 1,500 women are now participating, representing a 72% increase in seven years. Almost 100 NCAA schools sanction the sport, up from a mere 15 when the first tournaments were held in Gulf Shores.
Automatic bids went out to nine conferences this year, and the single-elimination format will add a March Madness type atmosphere.
“There are no more second chances,” said DeBoer. “This raises the stakes considerably and makes the tournament much less predictable.”
The City of Gulf Shores, and Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism both support the tourney financially. And they are holding out hope that the city can before the permanent host for the NCAA beach volleyball championships like Oklahoma City has for softbal and Omaha for the College World Series.
“It would help us with the planning we do,” said Brown. “If we know we will have the beach volleyball championships for the foreseeable future, instead of borrowing things to put on the fields (like the bleachers), we can make larger capital investments. We don’t feel there are any deficiencies to having it here permanently at all.
“It would help if the SEC had a program,” said Brown. “We are not sure why Alabama and Auburn haven’t jumped on board yet,” Brown said.
DeBoer foresees the SEC adding beach volleyball as a conference sport within the next five years, noting that South
Carolina, LSU, and Texas have teams already. Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and California have high school championships for beach volleyball.