By Claire Salinas
This past school year, LSU added a sport to its program, which requires high levels of athleticism and training to excel in. Those who have played the indoor version of the sport have to train entirely differently for the outdoor game of women’s sand volleyball.
“If you have tried to run or walk on the beach you can understand the challenges of the game,” said head coach Fran Flory. “They train, lift, run and work on passing and setting skills which are vital. We run, jump and do everything you would do on hardwood, but we do it in the sand.”
It may not have been a banner debut season, finishing 6-10 overall and having only played three home games. However, it will always go down as the year that birthed a new sport.
To keep the program growing, Flory and the coaching staff search for players who are not only passionate about the sport, but have what she calls a “Sand IQ.” This year’s team was recruited from the existing indoor volleyball team at LSU and open tryouts were held to fill the remaining slots on the team.
The final roster included 15 players who fought hard to obtain victories throughout the season.
Flory explained the top goal of the team this season was to make it to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Championships in Gulf Shores, but due to a few key losses in the beginning of the season, they fell short of their goal.
“We felt like we had a schedule set up that would benefit us and the athleticism that would maybe lend us the opportunity to get there. The reality is the sand game is so different from the indoor game that it took our kids a bit longer to transition than we had hoped. In the beginning we had some losses that probably cost us that opportunity.”
Flory and the staff knew that making it to the tournament might not be possible in the inaugural year of the sport, so they had another goal stored in the books to push towards.
“If we didn’t get a team there we wanted to get our number ones out there. Number ones have the opportunity to advance to the AVCA Pairs Championship,” said Flory. “The pairs competed and our number one pair had a very good season. Had they won a couple more matches then they would have had a chance to play in the national championship.”
These players have to work together and find ways to anticipate each other’s movements in order to excel as a pair. Flory pointed to Meghan Mannari and Katy Lindelow as this season’s number one pair.
“Meghan was a defender and Katy was a net player, so they were a great pair. Meghan will probably pursue a professional career in sand volleyball after finishing her masters,” said Flory. “Katy is a sophomore here on the indoor team. She was recruited with the idea that she has a great passion for sand volleyball, she is very physical and plays at the net.”
LSU is serious about keeping the sport around, and has gone as far as to hire Russell Brock as the associate head coach who has been tasked with being highly involved with the training of the girls.
Despite LSU’s commitment to keeping the women’s sand volleyball team around, it will not become certified as an official NCAA championship sport until 40 schools sponsor it. After that the program will undergo a two-year probationary period, and if numbers stay at or above 40 schools, there is a possibility it will become an official NCAA championship sport in 2016.