When the UH Beach Volleyball team returned to Manoa on Monday they came back from the mainland as the most accomplished team the program has seen yet. While beach volleyball, and the beach 'bows for that matter, are still in their infancy, UH's growth is still worth noting as both the number of schools and talent among the teams continue to improve at a rapid pace.
They left the 808 over a week ago as the defending Big West Champions, and were also the underdog at the conference tournament with top seeded Long Beach State the favorite to take home the title. Then Hawaii went on to upset the 49ers twice, and bring the Big West trophy back to Manoa for a second consecutive season.
Then, they took to the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama where two more upsets would help them advance all the way to the national championship semifinal, where they eventually fell to Pepperdine. With that result the beach 'bows finished their season with a program best record, 29-7, a feat that's particularly remarkable considering the uptick in talent hitting the beach around the country.
"A lot of great things in there. Obviously we fell short of our initial goal, or our ultimate goal," said Rainbow Wahine head coach, Jeff Hall. "But, we're happy with the season. We love the Big West Championship. We love that we were in the field of eight and had a chance to win a championship. But, I think we're trending the right direction. The three years that I've been with the program we've gotten a little bit further along in the NCAA Tournament or the postseason tournament so that's a good thing. So, for us everything is going the right direction looking forward to next year."
In the 5 seasons since the Rainbow Wahine Beach began in 2012, UH went from having just 10 total matches in that inaugural year to 36 in 2017, including the NCAA Championship tournaments which were sanctioned for the first time just a year ago.
"Yea i mean obviously it's growing it was the fastest growing sport in NCAA history," said Hall. "They're doing so many things with the environment, the tournament, the championship moment, to make it better. For me that's the biggest plus, is growing the game, having more programs, having a better event, improving this experience. It's about them having their championship moment."
Just two years ago beach volleyball was finally funded at 40 schools, which is the minimum required to be sanctioned as an NCAA sport.
Next season that number will have grown to 61 Division I schools around the country.
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