The 2023 season brought high expectations for the Westcliff men’s beach volleyball team as they aimed to reclaim the AVCA National Championship title and achieve a rare feat – back-to-back championships. The journey was a challenging one, filled with remarkable performances and unforgettable moments. In the world of sports, successfully defending a championship title is no small task, and the Westcliff Warriors proved that they were up for the challenge.
Day 1: A Strong Start
The Warriors embarked on their journey in Alabama, facing tough pool play matchups against formidable Division II schools like Tusculum, Stevenson, and Lincoln Memorial. They also had a score to settle with Webber International, who had challenged them for the title the previous year. The pool play matches showcased the Warriors’ determination and skill, with each pair learning and winning on the first day. Their momentum was evident in a resounding 5-0 victory over Stevenson. The highlight of the day, though, was the rematch against Webber International. The Warriors knew it would be a tough battle, but they managed to secure a dominant 4-1 victory. The last match of the day against Lincoln Memorial pushed the Warriors to a decisive third set with their #1 pair. The intensity and back-and-forth affair left both sides cheering for their teams, but Westcliff narrowly lost the match 3-2.
Day 2: Determination
Heading into the final day, the Warriors were ignited by a burning desire to reach the title round. Tusculum stood in the path preventing the Warriors from advancing. Westcliff responded with a commanding 5-0 sweep over Tusculum, leaving no doubt about their abilities. With pool play completed, three teams found themselves tied at 3-1. It all came down to the points earned from the pairs, with Westcliff leading the pack with 16 points. Lincoln Memorial had 13 points, as did Webber International, creating a tense situation. The Warriors secured their spot in the championship round, setting the stage for a showdown against a new opponent.
Title Match: Defending the Crown
The Warriors entered the title match with a singular goal in mind: to become national champions once again. LMU struck first, taking a 1-0 lead with their 4th pair. In response, the Warriors executed a clean sweep in the 5th pair matchups.
The pivotal moment came with the 3rd pair, where Tom Dempsey and Kajus Mazuronis, down a set, mounted a thrilling comeback to force a decisive 3rd set. They clinched the win, giving the Warriors a 2-1 lead.
The outcome now hinged on the 2nd pair and the 1st pair matchups. Both matches were fiercely competitive, with the third set deciding the championship. In the 2nd pair match, Gabriel Pizza and Jacob Titus displayed remarkable resilience, grabbing the second set to force a winner-takes-all final set. With the support of a passionate and vocal crowd, Pizza and Titus harnessed that energy to secure the 3rd set and, ultimately, the championship for the Warriors. Pizza went on to say, “When I made the last point of the championship my feeling was, the job is done. We worked very hard as a team and we built up a family culture to play and win together. I’m thrilled to represent Westcliff in yet another championship!”
As the Warriors celebrated, they turned their attention to the #1 pair, DJ Klasnic and Ilias Lazaar, who had been their captains throughout the season. The team finished their match and joined the celebration, marking a stylish end to their back-to-back national championship victory.
AVCA National Championship Standout Performances:
Pair 1 – DJ Klasnic / Ilias Lazaar demonstrated their prowess, achieving a 3-2 record with significant victories against Webber and Stevenson.
Pair 2 – Gabriel Pizza / Jacob Titus were the standout performers of the weekend, going a perfect 5-0 and beating Stevenson, Webber, Lincoln Memorial (twice), and Tusculum.
Pair 3 – Tom Dempsey / Kajus Mazornis played a crucial role, finishing pool play and the championship with a 4-1 record, including a remarkable comeback win in the title match.
Pair 4 – Andy Jaszczynski / Mikael Massaki secured important points for the team in pool play, guaranteeing their #1 seed and their spot in the championship match by defeating Stevenson and Tusculum.
Pair 5 – Pawel Tuz / Tyler Brossard were the final pair to achieve a perfect 5-0 record during the weekend, triumphing over Stevenson, Webber, Tusculum, and Lincoln Memorial (twice). Notably, they were the only pair to sweep their opponents in the championship match, making their contribution truly exceptional.
Westcliff’s men’s beach volleyball team’s journey to back-to-back national championships in 2023 was filled with determination, teamwork, and unforgettable moments. Defending a title is a monumental task, but the Warriors’ outstanding performances, resilience, and unwavering support from their fans culminated in a remarkable championship victory, solidifying their place in history as one of the best in the sport. The future of Westcliff men’s beach volleyball looks promising, and this achievement will be remembered as a defining moment in the team’s legacy.