New beach volleyball team challenging ACU players to improve
ABILENE, Texas —
For the first time in more than 10 years, there is a new sanctioned sport at ACU.
The beach volleyball team began its first season in March after the program launch was announced in the fall of 2016.
"It looks easy. You're just getting the ball, but there's a lot more movement that people don't see," junior Amy Weiss said.
After playing indoor volleyball for two seasons at North Central Texas College in Gainesville, Weiss wanted a change so she decided to play beach volleyball. The timing for ACU to be starting its new program worked our perfectly.
"The biggest reaction is, 'Is that a club sport at ACU,'" said Weiss on the response when people find out she goes to school to play beach volleyball.
"No, it's an actual NCAA Division I sport. We compete against big name teams. It's the fastest growing NCAA sport right now, and it's about a blow up and everyone is going to know about it."
Four other Southland Conference schools play beach volleyball: Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist, New Orleans and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. A total of eight teams is needed for a conference tournament, and an automatic qualifer to the NCAA Tournament.
Most of the 19 players are on the roster are from ACU's indoor volleyball team, but three players, including Weiss, exclusively play on the sand.
"Their learning curve has been huge," ACU head beach volleyball coach and assistant indoor coach Seth Alstrom said. "A lot of them didn't realize how different [beach and indoor] were, but some of them are realizing the skills aren't super different. But the game play and strategy is night and day different."
The Wildcats have competed in three tournaments so far -- two in Arizona and the most recent one in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In beach volleyball a game consists of five separate matches played to best-of-three sets.
There are two players on either side of the net playing to 21 in the first two sets, and 15 in the third set if it is needed. Like indoor volleyball, it is rally scoring and teams must win by two points or more.
Whichever team wins the majority of the five matches wins the game.
"The first tournament we went to, we just looked at what everyone else was doing and followed their tempo," said Weiss. "We're pros now. We know what we've doing."
The Wildcats are practicing at Hardin-Simmons until sand courts are built outside of ACU"s recreation center.
They travel to Kingsville, Texas, to play in the Javelina Battle of the Beach this weekend against Texas A&M-Kingsville, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, St. Edward's and New Mexico.
ACU will round out its inaugural season in the Southland Showcase with a site and opponents to be determined later.