Beach volleyball readies for new season

Sophomore Chelsea Ireland goes up for the ball against St. Thomas. (Photo from Brett Adams Flickr)

Stevenson University beach volleyball athletes are preparing for a new season. Stevenson was the first Division III school to offer beach volleyball as a varsity sport in the country, and this will be the team’s third season.

Dave Trumbo, head coach of the team, and coach for the last 11 years of indoor volleyball, is impressed with how the team has grown over time.

Kristen Brooks dives for the ball against St. Thomas. (Photo from Brett Adams Flickr)

The goal for this season is to place in the top three of the small college nationals, said Trumbo, a realistic goal since the Mustangs have beaten teams in all three divisions.

Senior Lauren Weaver has seen this evolution from the start.

“As a senior, I’ve been a part of the beach program from the very beginning. Stevenson was the first DIII beach volleyball team in the entire nation. Our first season, the team was entirely made up of indoor players…we kept our expectations low at first. We quickly realized we could play with, and even beat, some of the DI and DII competition we were facing. Each season, we have become exponentially more confident. We no longer play teams and hope we avoid losing– we play teams and expect to win,” she said.

Several of the team’s players have come from the indoor volleyball team, which could potentially bring some difficulties due to the change in environment.

“Our biggest challenge is the weather. We need to get on the sand as much as possible. The two games are completely different; in beach we play in whatever weather — as long as there’s no lightning, we are playing!” said Trumbo.

The women must adapt their team style of six on the court to beach play that has only two players on each side at one time. This means players must rely more their partners.

“Our biggest weakness is our expectations. In indoor, we not only expect to win games, we demand to win the MAC championships and go to NCAAs. These expectations have shown to be consistent. Many of the players are from the indoor team and have little experience in the sand. Our expectations for ourselves remain high, regardless of how unfamiliar the sport is. It’s like we see the word ‘volleyball,’ in ‘beach volleyball,’ and expect to play exactly how we play indoor,” said Weaver.

Since the team is the only beach volleyball team within seven hours of Owings Mills, they travel constantly. The team went to Texas in early March, and will play in Florida during spring break. However, when the team plays in Maryland, they must practice in all weather conditions.

Trumbo said that he has brought in some really strong freshmen and will welcome back experienced players as well. He believes team chemistry is one of the factors that makes the Mustangs so successful.

The team left a road trip to Kingsville, Texas, March 2-3 with two wins, and two losses to open their season. During the Holiday Inn Emerald Beach Classic, hosted by Texas A&M Kingsville, wins against Principia College (5-0) and Huntingdon College (4-1) gave the Mustangs some confidence early in the season. The two losses came from Texas A&M (5-0) and Missouri Baptist University (3-2).

While in Florida the team will be trying something new: renting a house during their matches. The team will host a match on April 28 during the second annual VillaFest.

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