UH sand volleyball team hits 'Bama for National Championship

The University of Hawai'I sand volleyball team is now in Alabama for the 2014 AVCA Sand Volleyball National Championship. UH, which earned the No. 4 seed, will open the tournament against No. 5 Florida International at 9:00 a.m. CT on Friday, May 2. Also in the six-team field are USC, Pepperdine, Florida State and Stetson.

The team championship will be held on Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3 and the tournament format is double-elimination with a sudden death final four. The finals are slated to begin at 3:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, May 3.

The event will again be held in Gulf Shores, Ala.-home of the event the last three years-and will also feature a pairs championship. The pairs championship will begin with the ten "Best of the Rest" duos-selected from schools not in the team competition-engaged in pool play on May 2 and 3. The top two finishers will be seeded into Sunday's 16-team single elimination bracket.

The six top pairs from the team championship schools and the top two from the four semi-finalists will also be entered into Sunday's pairs championship bracket. There will be a play-in for the final two positions. First round matches in the pairs championship will start at 8 a.m. CT on Sunday, May 4. The semifinals are scheduled to start at noon and the championship match is slated for 2 p.m.

The top UH tandem of Karissa Cook-Brittany Tiegs will compete for UH in the pairs championship while the No. 2 squad of and Katie Spieler-Nikki Taylor will also participate. Cook and Tiegs went a stellar 33-4 during the regular season, while Spieler and Taylor finished with a 33-10 mark.

CBS Sports Network will televise portions of the competition in a two-hour special that will have three airings (May 26, 7 p.m. ET/May 30 7:30 p.m/June 2,  7:00 p.m.).

The Rainbow Wahine are ranked No. 3 in the latest AVCA national poll and finished the regular-season with an 18-3 overall mark. UH sported six wins over ranked squads and its only three losses came against the top two teams in the nation in Pepperdine and USC.  A total of 14 of the team's 18 wins came via 5-0 shutouts.

While this will be the first team appearance for program, it is not UH's first trip to the nationals. UH competed in the pairs championship during the inaugural event in 2012. The tandems of Emily Hartong-Elizabeth Stoltzmann and Jane Croson-Ashley Lee represented UH. Both pairs were knocked out during the Round of 16.

Tiegs, who transferred from Florida State, was a member of the Seminole squad that competed in the inaugural tournament in 2012.

Team Championship Schedule (All Times Central Daylight):

Friday, May 2

9:00 a.m. #4 Hawaii v. #5 Florida International

10:00 a.m. #3 Florida State v. #6 Stetson

12:00 p.m. #1 USC v. Winner #4/#5

1:00 p.m. #2 Pepperdine v. Winner #3/#6

4:00 p.m. Loser #4/#5 v. Loser of 1:00 p.m. match

5:00 p.m. Loser #3/#6 v. Loser of 12:00 p.m. match

Saturday, May 3

11:00 a.m. Semi-Final #1

12:00 p.m. Semi-Final #2

3:30 p.m. Championship Match

Pairs Championship (All Times Central Daylight):

Pool play matches at 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. on Friday, May 2 and 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 3; Play-in match at 2:00 p.m., Saturday, May 3; Round of 16 at 8:00 a.m., Semifinals at noon and Finals at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 4