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A Sandy Start

Beach volleyball is the newest NCAA sport added to the Cal State LA Athletics Program.

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Lauren Gomez (Right) setting the ball for Iona Lofrano (left)

Lauren Gomez (Right) setting the ball for Iona Lofrano (left)

J. Aaron Delgado

J. Aaron Delgado

Lauren Gomez (Right) setting the ball for Iona Lofrano (left)

Oscar Alanis, Intern

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In September 2015, Division II members granted sand volleyball membership to become the 90th championship sport at the NCAA Convention, also known as beach volleyball. Previously, sand volleyball was only on the emerging sports for women list.

According to the NCAA, in order to become a championship sport, “emerging sports must gain at least 40 varsity NCAA programs for individual and team sports (except in Division III, where 28 varsity programs are required for team sports) within 10 years or show steady progress toward that goal.”

Cal State LA has an indoor volleyball team, but never had a beach volleyball team. “This is a first for Cal State LA, but the sport of beach volleyball is new for the NCAA. There aren’t a lot of schools that offer it,” said Paul Helms, Cal State LA Sports Information Director.

Believe it or not, there are many differences between the indoor game and beach game.

Instead of playing with six players per side, beach volleyball consists of five two-player teams. The two-player teams face off in three matches; the best two of three wins. The first two sets go to 21 points; winner has to win by two. If a third set is needed, it will go to 15 points.

Beach volleyball only consists of two players per side, so sand courts are smaller (16mx 8m) than indoor courts (18mx9m). Another difference is the material of the ball and how it feels. An indoor ball is made of leather, therefore it is heavier than a beach volleyball that is softer and lighter but a little bigger.

Factor in these differences along with unpredictable weather, running and jumping in the sand instead of a hardwood floor, and slightly different rules. Transitioning to the beach game will be tough for Cal State LA.

Without a sand court available on campus the Golden Eagles have been taking trips to Long Beach in order to practice. Because of this same reason, there will not be any home games for the 2017 beach volleyball season. A school official couldn’t be reached for comment regarding a sand volleyball court at Cal State LA in the near future.

On the sand for the Golden Eagles will be the 2016 indoor team that finished with an overall record of 15-11 and 11-6 in conference play. That team featured three All-CCAA players; Alma Serna and JaimeAnn Bero making first-team and Kelsey Molnar making second-team.

Cal State LA will also be receiving the help of three-time All-American Iona Lofrano who joins the beach volleyball team as a graduate student.

On Feb. 1, the Golden Eagles made history by fielding the first ever women’s beach volleyball team.  The sets took place at Irvine Valley College against Concordia Irvine. After hard fought sets Cal State LA fell 5-0.

Following the first competition head coach Randi Smart remains optimistic.“There’s still a lot of learning ahead of us because this is new for most of them, but it really was a fun and enjoyable day,” said Smart in a recap with the Cal State LA Athletics Department.

Next up for the Golden Eagles is Concordia Irvine at Huntington Beach on Feb. 17. The schedule features future dates with Division I schools such as Stetson, Long Beach State, Arizona State, Pepperdine, CSUN, Loyola Marymount, and Cal State Bakersfield.

Many of the Cal State LA beach volleyball athletes are ecstatic to be playing against Division I opponents including Sophomore Cynthia Giron. “It’s exciting to be able to know that we are going to watch girls that do this full time. They train on the beach year round. It’ll be fun to learn from them,” said Giron.

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A Sandy Start