March 4, 2013
In just its second year as an NCAA sport, women's sand volleyball continues its classification as an emerging sport in 2013. Nearly 20 schools sponsored the sport in 2012, and that total has risen to 31 for 2013 as of Feb. 26.
The American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), which will sponsor the Sand Volleyball National Championship through 2015, shows 15 Division I schools sponsoring the program on the West Coast (UCLA, Arizona, California, CSU Bakersfield, Hawai'i, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, Pacific, Pepperdine, Sacramento State, Saint Mary's, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Stanford, USC).
In the Southeast, 13 schools have sand volleyball squads (Alabama-Birmingham, College of Charleston, Florida Atlantic, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida International, Florida State, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Louisiana Monroe, Mercer, North Florida, Stetson and Tulane). Nebraska, representing the Midwest, is one of the newest institutions to open a sand volleyball program for 2013. In addition, Grand Canyon (Division II) and Webber University (NAIA) have sand volleyball programs.
More than 30 other institutions are considering adding the sport in the coming years. Emerging NCAA sports have 10 years to establish itself before a reclassification review becomes necessary. However, once 40 Division I and II schools have sponsored the program for two years, the NCAA will sponsor an NCAA Championship.
In order to qualify for the year-end AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship, which will take place in Gulf Shores, Ala. for the second straight year from May 3-5, schools must play at least eight dates, with three competitions being dual matches. Pepperdine won the 2012 National Championship, defeating Long Beach State 5-0.
The format for sand volleyball matches is similar to that of college tennis. Each school will have five, two-person teams that will compete in one match, which will be played in a best-of-three format. The first two sets will be to 21 points, rally scoring win by two, with the third set, if necessary, going to 15 win by two.
Tournament- or bracket-style play will have points awarded based on finishes in each of the five brackets and a total team score determines the winner of the event.
There are a few differences between sand volleyball and the indoor game. Sand is officiated much differently, with no open-handed tipping allowed. Setting is also called so tightly in sand that the bump set is more popular than the overhead set. In addition, the block touch counts as the first of three allowable contacts.
The coaching aspect is different as well, as they may only speak to players during timeouts or between sets. Also, to even things out in regards to wind and sun, teams switch sides of the court every seven points in sets one and two and every five points in the deciding set.