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Slamming in the Sand: Implementing Beach Volleyball

By Keiran President
On April 9, 2018

Photos provided by: Adrianna Skipper

Ottawa University is home to a fantastic volleyball program. We have seen the recent success from the women’s team as they captured their fourth consecutive regular season title this past fall, which secured their spot in the national tournament.

The men’s team have also secured their spot in the national tournament, as they are ranked second in the nation behind conference rivals Missouri Baptist University.

Braves’ continuous success in indoor play led to the introduction of Sand Volleyball this spring. There has been spike in popularity of sand volleyball in the recent years, especially after a non-stop broadcast throughout the 2012 Summer Olympics.  

In 2013, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) identified sand volleyball as an emerging sport and was only a few teams away from the 40 teams necessary to hold an NCAA championship.

In 2014, the Association of Volleyball Professionals stated, “Women’s beach volleyball has officially become the fastest NCAA emerging sport ever.” The sport has progressed from 16 teams in 2012, 29 in 2013, and 41 in 2014, which meant that a Sand Volleyball National Championship could be held.

“As coaches, we thought it would be a great idea to have the girls become more rounded volleyball players and also introduce more opportunities for competitive play,” says Meshach McKnight, beach volleyball graduate assistant. “We realized it was feasible and got approval from the athletic department, and it was added.”

The team travels up to a beach volleyball facility in Kansas City, Missouri, for practice. Adrianna Skipper, who was a setter on OU’s women’s volleyball team, has played sand volleyball before, but not at a competitive level.

When asked about the challenges of moving from indoors to sand, Skipper says, “Mainly just having to take up so much more court. Now it's just me and one other person and not six others.”

She explains that players must transition from five other teammates on court with them to just one.

Generally, a beach team of two will comprise of a really good blocker and a good defensive specialist, where both are equally good at ball control and offensive plays,” McKnight says.

The rules for sand and beach are slightly different, and they could take some time to get used to.

“You cannot open hand tip; the ball must be a knuckle or roll shot. The setting is different -- that was the hardest to adjust to, just having to either hold the ball for a second or use my platform. Also, if the ball goes off the block, you only have two more touches to get it over, unlike in indoor (where) you still have three after the block touch,” Skipper says.

During their first games, she was nervous and overwhelmed by the amount of cheap shots that came over the net.

“Going into the next few matches, I feel like I'll be more aware of what is going to happen during certain plays,” Skipper says.

Despite these challenges, both McKnight and Skipper are optimistic about the season.

“We are very open-minded. This is a learning year for us, and we ultimately just want the girls to learn and grow, which we are accomplishing,” McKnight says.

 “I think we all just want to work hard and get use to tempo of the game,” Skipper says. “Since it'll all be our first time playing competitively, we just have to remember to take it a play at a time and not get frustrated.”

The Braves will be playing their next set of games on April 13 in the Principia Tournament.


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