The Hawaiʻi players celebrate after Kaylee Glagau and Brooke Van Sickle's dual-clinching flight win against California on March 12 at Queen's Beach. Hawaiʻi will be the No. 1 seed in the Big West Beach Volleyball Championship at Queen's this weekend.

Playing at home is regarded as a major advantage for the home team and for the UH beach volleyball team. This could play into their hands this weekend at Waikīkī’s Queen’s Beach.

No. 8 Hawaiʻi is 8-3 at Queen’s this season, including 5-0 at the Heineken Queen’s Cup last March. They enter this weekend’s Big West Beach Volleyball Championships as the No. 1 seed of the tournament, played at Queen’s.

“The crowd and the fans and support and how well we know that beach is the biggest advantage for us,” junior Ilihia Huddleston said after UH’s senior night festivities on Sunday. “We’re celebrating now, but we have to get back in focus because that’s our biggest goal right now — to win [the] Big West.”

The sand at Queen’s courts is considered to be harder than the sand at UH’s on-campus courts in the Clarence T. C. Ching Athletics Complex, which makes it one of the hardest beaches to play at, according to UH senior Brooke Van Sickle.

“Definitely a lot harder to move than [at] Ching,” she said prior to the start of the season. “You get a lot of sand sharks and you just trip.”

Experience playing at Queen’s is also something that most teams lack on their roster. There are two former UH players on the rosters of the other Big West schools — Long Beach State’s Megan Widener and UC Davis’s Sydney Rau-Kim. Long Beach State and Cal Poly did make trips to Honolulu to play UH in 2021, but played their games against them at the Ching Complex.

“It’s certainly going to be a new environment for them,” UH coach Evan Silberstein said. “The sand is challenging, certainly. They’re good beach volleyball players and good beach volleyball teams, so I think the home vibe, being comfortable in that environment, and just the length of the days as things stretch out and there’s different things happening, our comfortability down there is definitely to our advantage.”

Travel could also play in the favor of UH, who normally travels to the continent to play in the Big West tournament. The BeachBows played the other six Big West schools in the Big West Challenge in San Luis Obispo, California, last month and won all six to extend what ended up being an 18-match winning streak. Overall, UH (26-6) went 10-0 against Big West schools in the regular season and this time, the California-based teams will make the trip to Hawaiʻi.

“Being able to stay at home, being able to recover, all the [resources] like not having to skip school and staying on top of everything is really important, especially for a big tournament like this,” Van Sickle said. “I think everyone’s going to be less stressed and more comfortable, so should be good.”

The last time the Big West conference tournament was played in Honolulu was 2018 — which was also the last time UH won a Big West championship. They’ve come close to winning the tournament the last three seasons, finishing runner-up to Cal Poly all three years.

“We’re extremely motivated,” Silberstein said. “We’ve been so close, we’ve tasted it. We made that [double-elimination] final a couple of years ago, we had the three-year run where we did win it and to have been in second each of the last few years, to be so close to smell it and not finish it: the seniors want it, they’ve never had it before.”

Last season, the BeachBows entered as the No. 1 seed of the tournament but lost to the Mustangs on both days of the tournament.

“Last year was definitely heartbreaking because we definitely came in very confident — maybe a little bit too confident — [it] got taken from us,” Van Sickle said. “But this year, I feel like we have a good group of girls. We have a lot of depth this year, that’s really good to see that. I’m ready. We’re all taking it one weekend at a time and just little by little, believing that we can actually do the thing.”

Comments disabled.