My oh my, what a spring it has been for TCU Athletics.
Drew Davison at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram put it well: the Frog squads have been down right powerhouses as of late.
With baseball and soccer rolling, it’s easy to forget about Beach Volleyball—the newest sport to find postseason success in Fort Worth.
The youngest sport on TCU’s campus, Beach Volleyball is headed to Gulf Shores, Ala., this weekend to compete in the NCAA Championship. Here are the three things you need to know about the Frogs before their playoff debut:
1. History in the Making
Entering their seventh year as a program, TCU has been smelling a historical season since the turn of the new year.
It all started when the Frogs landed the No. 8 recruiting class in the country, giving them their first top 10 ranking. Two members of that class, Daniela Alvarez and Tania Moreno Mateeva (both from Spain), got to work right away, dominating their way to the AVCA’s National Pair of the Week honor in the first week of the season.
Not only was that the first time for a pair of Horned Frogs to earn that title, but the duo was also named to the CCSA All-Conference and All-Rookie teams after
That’s a lot of “firsts,” but it doesn’t end there.
TCU finished a whopping 12-0 at home, earning their first ever 20-win season in conference play with a CCSA record of 20-6.
This all involved 112 total match wins (another program record), which was highlighted by five-straight sweeps in mid-March.
As if that is not enough, TCU also became the first team in Texas to ever reach the NCAA Championships after their highest-ever performance in the CCSA Championships at third (behind Florida State and LSU, respectively).
To put it bluntly, this was a TCU Beach Volleyball season for the ages.
2. Championship on the Mind
Despite coming in as the No. 8 seed in a field of eight teams in the NCAA Championships, the Frogs are heading to Alabama this weekend with one goal in mind.
Win. The. Natty.
“We’re going to Gulf Shores to fight and win all the matches we can,” head coach Hector Gutierrez said. “We’ve put so much work into this season, and we know what we’re capable of. We have the confidence and the skills to do it. We can’t wait to get going.”
Of the eight teams competing, four are from California (who would have thought), but two are very familiar to TCU.
The Frogs took on Florida State (No. 3) and LSU (No. 5) a combined six times this year. Despite dropping each of those matches, several were very tight, highlighted by a pair of 2-3 losses in April in which the bad guys narrowly took the victories.
Up first, TCU has quite the tall task, as they take on No. 1 UCLA on Friday morning. Entering the NCAA Championships after bulldozing their way through the Pac-12 tournament, the Bruins boast an impressive 28-3 overall record and the Frogs’ tallest task yet.
Literally, the defending champs’ No. 1 duo features two athletes at or nearing six feet tall.
3. Dynamic Duos
Along with Alvarez and Moreno Mateeva, TCU’s No. 2 pairing, Olivia Blackburn and Hailey Brockett are another duo to watch in the tournament.
In the CCSA tournament two weeks ago, Blackburn and Brockett put the icing on the cake of a season that featured them winning the most season matches in program history (27). They went off in the tournament, earning a straight-set win over LSU and spots on the All-Tournament team.
In her third year with the program, Brockett has established herself as one of the best ever to wear the purple and white. The Point Loma, Calif., native has more ranked wins (23) than any Horned Frog ever.
TCU’s top three duos (rounded out by Rochelle Scott and Maria Gonzalez) finished with an impressive 76-19 record on the year.
It’s going to take a heck of an effort from these three pairs and the rest of the Frogs for TCU to achieve their goal, but if there’s ever been a year, this is it.
The Frogs face the top-ranked Bruins at 9 a.m. on Friday on ESPNU. Tune in. You won’t be disappointed.