Another first for Bronco Athletics! The Santa Clara volleyball team travelled down to Malibu last weekend to compete in its first-ever sand volleyball tournament with Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara. A day Bronco assistant coach Matt Lyles termed as a "typical spring tournament where there were no winners or losers", Santa Clara's team came away with a little sand in its hair and a lot of smiles.
Starting the day in the sand, Santa Clara played some 5 on 5 with Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara and then the teams played a number of 2 on 2 matches with each other. All were played on Pepperdine's sand courts in Malibu, with the Pacific Ocean as the background.
"This was about us getting our feet wet and learning how to play on the sand. Competing against other teams on the sand who are playing at the collegiate level was very good," added Lyles. Pepperdine is playing in the NCAA's first Final Four for sand volleyball along with Long Beach State, Florida State and College of Charleston April 27-28 in Golf Shores, Ala. "It was great to watch Pepperdine play."
SCU: Coach Lyles talked about the tournament not being about wins and losses and what his expectations were. How different is the style of play on sand? Did you have any trouble adjusting?
Kayla: The beach tournament at Pepperdine was such a cool experience for us. Beach is a totally different game, and I think that we adjusted well for the amount of time we spent practicing on the sand. I was proud of our team.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play in this tournament. It was something new for me, and I would love to see Santa Clara develop a beach program in the future.
Kat: Playing in the sand is very different from indoor. Not only is beach played with only 2 people, compared to 6 indoor, but it is also a smaller court size. There are also different rules on the beach, such as not being able to set a serve receive ball or free ball, and the block counts as a touch.
I had a great time last weekend in Malibu, and I would love for the Broncos to have the opportunity to compete outdoors in the future.
Lexi: Sand volleyball is a lot harder than indoor! First, it's so much harder to move and jump in the sand, and then you have to cover the same area with only two people. It's hard to adjust at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly!
This was such a great opportunity for us! One of my club volleyball teammates plays for Pepperdine's team and she has been telling me all about the development of the sand volleyball program at her school. She has seen so much improvement in her team's beach play as well as indoor play, all due to the four months of beach training her team has been doing. I think we should compete outdoors in the future because it helps our indoor speed and ball control, but most importantly, it is fun!
Megan: Sand is much different! It's more difficult to jump and ball control is so important. It's important indoors too, but as a middle blocker who plays the front row I don't use ball control indoors and on the sand, I really need great ball control. Also with jumping, it's much more difficult. I had to adjust my broad jumping style to be more up and down, so I can't get to fly through the ball as much.
It was amazing getting this chance to love the sand! I never had great feelings for beach volleyball, but now I love it and want to keep working in the sand.
SCU: What type of results did SCU produce in the beach tournament matches? The team was also provided new uniforms for the event by Nike, the team's apparel sponsor. Did anything stand out about the weekend that you enjoyed most?
Kayla: It was a learning experience for all of us. Personally, Ali (Ali Rambis) and I won two of our three matches (one was against our own team). We had the opportunity to play against Pepperdine who has spent a lot of time playing in tournaments this spring. I think everyone had a great time at the tournament. I enjoyed the opportunity to play in a beach tournament, and to represent Santa Clara in something new. Also, I am so thankful for all the Nike gear that we received to play on the beach.
Kat: Playing beach against Pepperdine and UCSB was definitely a challenge since they've been practicing almost everyday on the beach, and our team had only practiced for about a week. Regardless of the results, I think it was a very positive experience. Beach requires a lot of ball control, which can be very valuable in improving our indoor game.
Lexi: Our team received a lot of compliments from spectators! We only practiced on the beach for one week prior to playing Pepperdine. Katherine Douglas and I didn't do well on the books, but we learned so much from other players, which is why it was a positive experience!
Afterward, I was able to go to lunch after we finished with my friend who plays for Pepperdine, her dad, as well as my parents. It was fun catching up with her! I got to see my puppies so that made it ever better!
Megan: We did very well. We beat Santa Barbra most of the time and Pepperdine beat us. But they are ranked No. 1 in beach volleyball and train more on the sand. When we get more sand training I think we would be able to take them too.
I think how well we did as a group really stood out. We haven't been training on the beach as much as the other teams, but really represented Santa Clara well. We got a lot of compliments on our play, especially for a school not located right on the beach (Santa Cruz is 25 minutes away). It was such a great experience, and I can't wait to play more!
Along with the experience of competing in our first beach tournament, I enjoyed getting to know some of the players from Pepperdine and UCSB.
SCU: Jon Wallace added Matt Lyles and Brad Keller to his coaching staff this spring. What types of improvements has the team made under their guidance?
Kayla: I think that we have been successful at improving our system, and are becoming more consistent over time.
Kat: Our team has started working on a new system in practice, which is really improving and will be extremely beneficial in the fall.
Megan: We have really been sticking to the new system, even if it doesn't work at first, we understand the process and keep working at it knowing that when we get it, we will be the best in the conference. I can already see so many improvements in our speed, hand contact and discipline in the back court.