How a Wichita duo helped LSU beach volleyball pull off biggest NCAA upset in history

Growing up in land-locked Kansas didn’t prevent a pair of Wichita natives from helping the LSU beach volleyball team pull off the largest upset in NCAA Beach tournament history.

Valley Center graduate Ellie Shank and Bishop Carroll graduate Ella Larkin each played a role in helping guide the 11th-seeded Tigers to a Cinderella run to the Final Four, which included two straight upset victories.

The win over No. 3 seed Stanford, 3-2, broadcast nationally on ESPN2 this past Saturday clinched the deepest postseason run by a No. 11 seed in NCAA Beach history. The Tigers eventually lost to No. 2 seed UCLA 3-1 in the national semifinals.

“The Stanford win was amazing,” LSU head coach Russell Brock told “It’s always so tough to back up a big emotional win with another great performance, so to come out and battle an even better team than we just battled was really impressive. Every court played their hearts out and that’s all we can really ask.”

Larkin and her partner, Aubrey O’Gorman, played a key role in both upset victories at the NCAA tournament. They finished the season with a 12-3 record together on Court 3.

The duo rallied to win a three-set match on Court 3 to clinch the team’s victory over No. 6 seed TCU in Friday’s opening-round match, then won another three-set match on Court 3 to help take down Stanford in a historic upset.

“I’m especially proud of Aubrey and Ella,” Brock told “Since they started playing together halfway through the season, they just keep beating teams that don’t expect to lose.”

Meanwhile, Shank and her partner, Gabi Bailey, served as the top doubles team on Court 1 throughout the postseason run. Shank (25-6) finished with a team-high 25 victories on the season with a 13-5 record on Court 1.

Shank’s past accomplishments also include a Fall AVCA Pairs National Championship in November 2022 with her former partner, Kyle Deberg. She also was recently named an AVCA second team All-American.

Larkin and Shank were formerly standout indoor volleyball players growing up in Wichita, but found their niche in beach volleyball together. They both trained under Larkin’s father, Scott, at the Wichita Sports Forum, where he formed the city’s first beach volleyball club: No Coast Beach Volleyball.

Shank, a graduating senior, finished off an accomplished career, while Larkin, a 5-foot-10 junior, earned an AVCA Top Flight award on Court 4 last season and could do the same this season.