Erin Inskeep continues youth beach volleyball success with AAU title

The most dominant youth beach volleyball player in the United States is a 16-year-old who strolled barefoot back to her home half an hour after winning a gold medal.

Four days after taking home the AAU Beach National Player of the Year award, Erin Inskeep doubled on Sunday by winning the AAU Beach 18U national championship alongside Florida teammate Ashley Pater.

“We literally went crazy all day,” said Inskeep after the awards ceremony. “Like out of our minds.”

In a way, it was just another weekend at the beach for Manhattan Beach Mira Costa High’s new senior. She lives just down the street from Hermosa Beach Pier where the AAU tournament was held.

“I was just born on the beach,” Inskeep said.

She defended her home with enthusiasm and showed her outstanding all-around game. She was less dominant than precise – she attacked Pater quickly and flat, landing perfectly placed hits in every zone.

When the two sent in Julia Capps from Marymount, Kelly Belardi from Stanford and Jenna Colligan from Cal, it was clear that Inskeep could no longer be stopped. In the finals, Inskeep and Pater faced Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Grace Hong and her teammate Madison Goellner from Texas.

The match was all but over at 15-11 when Hong and Inskeep both vaulted onto a dying ball in the middle of the net and Inskeep tapped it past Hong for an easy block kill.

“I didn’t have any expectations [play]’ said Inskeep. “I just thought, ‘Ahhh, OK. I’ll just try and don’t do anything wrong.’ ”

Off the court she is as carefree as she is an unstoppable force on it. She didn’t even “think it was possible” to win Player of the Year, Inskeep said, because she was only 16.

If there’s one weakness in Inskeep’s game, it’s the application of sunscreen. Her nose peeled a few layers of skin down. But that’s normal when you’re a kid of the sand.

“I’ve been out here this month like every day,” Inskeep said. “Literally every day.”

Sunday was the most triumphant so far.

Watch out for Huntington’s

Danielle Sparks, left, and Haylee LaFontaine celebrate after winning the AAU U16 Beach Volleyball Championship.

Danielle Sparks, left, and Haylee LaFontaine celebrate after winning the AAU U16 beach volleyball title in Hermosa Beach on Sunday.

(Luca Evans/Los Angeles Times)

There’s a pretty specific set of elite teams in the southern section – Marymount, Mater Dei and Mira Costa, with a few other slots reserved for programs like Harvard-Westlake, Sierra Canyon and Redondo Union to compete.

It might be time to add Huntington Beach into the mix. The team is young — they went 28-7 last season — and two of its up-and-coming juniors, Danielle Sparks and Haylee LaFontaine, just won the 16U AAU National Beach Championship on Sunday.

Danger.

“I’m just looking forward to getting the program off the ground and getting it on the map,” Sparks said after her win with LaFontaine.

Their championship victory even overshadowed the crowning 18U event, as Sparks and LaFontaine dueled Claire Sun (Los Altos Hills) and Logan Tusher (Belvedere) in a back-and-forth thriller. When the score surpassed the winning mark of 28 in a win-to-two situation, a large crowd gathered on Hermosa Beach to watch the couples’ desperate jumps and exhausted claps.

Leading 33-32, LaFontaine told Sparks, “Dani, we’re going to get that next point. We end the game.”

They did, 34-32, and look forward to carrying the beach swing into the indoor season this fall.

“I think we’re going to do a lot of great things over the next few years,” LaFontaine said.

Territory of the Trojans

Ultimately, Sunday’s biggest winner may have been USC beach volleyball coach Dain Blanton.

Out of four players in the girls’ U18 final, three – Hong, Pater and Goellner – are signed for USC.

Two others who made it deep into Sunday’s final gold bracket, Delaney Karl (San Diego) and Zoey Mitchell (Montana), will also join them as Trojans. Karl is in the USC class of ’26, but Mitchell, Hong, Pater and Goellner are all part of a stacked ’27 class.

Hong, Pater and Goellner gathered for a USC-specific photo after the finals. The future looks bright for a Trojans team that went 37-1 and won the national championship in 2022.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/story/2022-07-24/erin-inskeep-ashley-pater-aau-beach-volleyball-title Erin Inskeep continues youth beach volleyball success with AAU title

Emma Bowman

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