For the LSU Tigers Beach Volleyball team (27-9), 2021 was a season that will be marked by what could have been.
The Tigers finished 2020 as the nation’s top ranked team and entered this season as the #1 team. There was more than good reason to hope for a national title.
It just was not meant to be. The Tigers struggled against top competition throughout the year, pulling out just a 2-9 record against the other teams in the top 5 of the rankings.
The highlight of the season was LSU’s success on court one where the nation’s best pair in seniors Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth dominated all year.
Nuss and Kloth gave LSU the tremendous advantage of basically starting every game with a 1-0 advantage. They went 36-0 on the year.
As impressive as 36-0 is as a record, it somehow does not even begin to show how dominant they were as a pair for the season. They dropped just four sets the entire year. That was 72-4 on the season in sets.
Nuss was instrumental to taking LSU from virtually irrelevant to a national power in beach volleyball. LSU had never made the tournament before Nuss came to the program. Despite not having much beach experience, she made an immediate impact and became a key part for LSU on court on in her freshman season.
As a New Orleans native, she had dreamed of playing for the purple and gold and quickly became indispensable for the Tigers. She leaves LSU as the winningest player in the history of college beach volleyball compiling over 140 wins. There is a very good chance that in the coming years her jersey will be the first ever retired by LSU beach volleyball.
Kloth, played only two seasons for LSU, but was extremely successful. She went undefeated in both seasons. As a grad transfer from Creighton, she is one of only a handful of players to be both an all-American in both beach volleyball and indoor volleyball.
Despite not winning the national title, the pair won AVCA Pair of the Year and will go pro in the Association of Volleyball Professionals or AVP, the nation’s top beach volleyball league. It is going to be near impossible to replace that level of talent next season, but LSU is going to have to try.
The Tigers were never quite as successful off court one, but that does not mean they were not good. LSU compiled about a 75% winning percent on courts 3, 4, and 5. LSU will have to replace four seniors from those courts.
It was on court two where LSU really struggled throughout the season, The Tigers were 18-18 on the court and did not win a single set off of court two in the NCAA tournament.
The Tigers simply were not completive on two. It did not necessarily cost them the championship, but LSU would have had a much better chance if they were at the same level as the other NCAA tournament programs.
At the NCAA championship, LSU went 2-2. The Tigers pulled out wins against TCU and Florida State (for the first time in the season) and fell against Loyola Marymount and UCLA.
LSU will have to replace 7 senior starters, but LSU has plenty of talent. The Tigers are no longer plucky underdogs, they are a national power.