The University of Nebraska announced on Wednesday that it will add sand volleyball as a women's intercollegiate sport, beginning with the spring 2013 competition season.
The addition of sand volleyball to Nebraska's list of sport offerings, gives the Huskers 24 intercollegiate programs, including 14 women's teams and 10 men's teams. Sand volleyball is the first sport Nebraska has added since women's rifle began competition in the 1998-99 season.
Sand volleyball was approved as an NCAA Emerging Sport for women in 2009 and began play in the 2011-12 school year. Fifteen schools sponsored varsity teams in the spring of 2012, the first season of competition for Division I schools. The inaugural AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championships were held last April in Gulf Shores, Ala., and that site will host the championship from 2013 to 2015.
More than 20 schools are currently sponsoring sand volleyball, with that number expected to grow in the coming years. When 40 institutions in Division I and II have sponsored varsity programs for one year, the NCAA will sponsor an NCAA Championship in the sport. Should funds be approved for a championship in the next budget cycle, the NCAA would host its first national championship in the spring of 2016.
Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst said the majority of the groundwork for the addition of sand volleyball was completed before he took over his position last week. The final steps to Nebraska's sponsorship of sand volleyball were approved by the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference over the past few days.
"Coach Osborne and Coach Cook had discussions about the possibility of adding sand volleyball over the past few months and things came together quickly in recent weeks," Eichorst said. "We are excited to sponsor a sport that is beginning to emerge on the national level, and plan to grow with the sport in the coming years. Our volleyball program has a remarkable record of success over a long period of time, and we hope to add to that legacy through our sand volleyball team in the years ahead."
Nebraska Volleyball Coach John Cook said the growing popularity of sand volleyball made the addition of the sport at Nebraska an attractive option.
"We have talked a great deal about our vision for sand volleyball," Cook said. "We plan to start small and grow as the sport continues to develop. We understand the challenges in terms of our location, but we have a good plan on how to manage our sand volleyball team and grow with the sport."
Nebraska does not intend to offer scholarships for sand volleyball players, but all members of the Huskers' court volleyball team may participate in the sand season. Sand volleyball teams may have a maximum of two coaches, and Cook said he and assistant coach Dan Meske will fill those positions.
Cook said the time together during the sand season should be a benefit for volleyball student-athletes, and it also opens open additional playing opportunities.
"This is a great opportunity for our student-athletes to work on their game and continue to develop their skills. It is a fun sport and a lot of young women have aspirations of playing sand volleyball after college, and this gives them a chance to prepare for that career."
Sand volleyball teams are required to play at least eight dates with three of the competitions being dual matches. The maximum number of competitions is 16 dates. Cook said Nebraska does not plan to hold any home competitions in the 2013 spring season. The Huskers will begin sand volleyball practice later this week.
Eichorst indicated that he does not foresee additional adjustments to Nebraska's sports sponsorship makeup in the future.
Sand Volleyball Q&A
When is the sand volleyball season?
Sand volleyball is a spring team sport. The Division I playing season starts the first Thursday in March and ends eight weeks later or the end of the school year, whichever comes first.
What is the format of play?
Each school will field five doubles teams ranked by ability. Each doubles team plays against the corresponding team or teams from other schools. In a dual meet, the winning team is the school winning three of the five matches. Individual matches are two sets to 21, with a tiebreaker set to 15, if needed. All sets are rally scoring and must be won by two points. Tournament play will include multiple schools playing in consecutive dual matches. Some events will also include a pair's tournament to allow doubles teams to play across flights.
Can court volleyball players play on the sand volleyball team?
Yes, they become two-sport athletes and must abide by the rules governing all two-sport athletes in terms of training hours, i.e. no more than 20 hours per week.
How is the sport of sand volleyball different from court volleyball?
Beyond the differences in number of players on a side and surface for competition, sand volleyball is officiated much differently than court volleyball. No open handed tipping is allowed and setting is called so tightly in sand volleyball that the bump set is more popular than the overhead set. Also, the block touch counts as the first of three allowable contacts. Another difference is that coaches may only speak to players or give them any kind of input or feedback during timeouts and between sets. Also, to mitigate the impact of wind and sun, the players switch sides of the court every seven points in a 21-point set and every five points in a 15-point set.