For Misty May-Treanor, it’s all about giving girls more opportunities.
Sam Crosson wants to keep his program on the forefront of the competitive edge.
Women’s beach volleyball is coming to the collegiate ranks, and Cal Poly is poised to jump on at the ground level.
“More schools are doing that, and that’s a very unique experience,” said May-
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Treanor, a three-time women’s beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist. “It’s just another avenue for young girls to get a scholarship for college. I think education is key. So, let volleyball be a catalyst.
“It’s only going to make the indoor programs better.”
Before May-Treanor led a volleyball skills clinic for kids at Pismo Beach this past weekend, she spent the spring as a volunteer assistant coach at Long Beach State, her alma mater.
As a player in 1998, May-Treanor led the undefeated 49ers indoor volleyball team to an NCAA championship. This past spring, she helped guide Long Beach State, one of more than 30 universities sponsoring varsity-level beach volleyball teams, to a national title on sand.
That sand championship, however, was sponsored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, not the NCAA.
The NCAA, collegiate sports’ governing body, identifies sand volleyball not as a championship sport but as an emerging sport, albeit a fast-growing one.
In sand volleyball’s first year as an NCAA sport in 2012, there were 14 teams. In 2013, there were 34. With Cal Poly and others joining up next spring, the number of programs is expected to eclipse the 40 necessary for consideration to gain championship status.
“It’s going to be an NCAA Division I championship sport with a national championship probably within the next year or two,” said Crosson, the second-year head coach of the Mustangs’ indoor volleyball team. “I would say at the rate that programs are starting to add, at some point I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s televised on NBC or ESPN.”
It was Crosson’s plan to start the sand program at Cal Poly, and he will also coach the fledgling program next spring.
The Mustangs will participate in an unspecified number of scheduled matches in 2014. In the dual format, five doubles teams from each school will match up in best-of-three-set matches with each match counting as a point in the dual score.
Universities are allowed to award athletic scholarships for sand volleyball in addition to indoor volleyball, but while scholarship sand players are not allowed to play indoor, many teams, Cal Poly included, are populating their sand rosters with players and coaches from the indoor team.
That allows indoor coaches and players to have more instruction time than would be allowed without the benefit of a sand program.
With Big West Conference foes Long Beach State and UC Irvine having already established sand programs, the Mustangs are ensuring that they are not at a competitive disadvantage against their peers.
And Crosson believes he is making Cal Poly a more attractive destination for recruits.
“Recruiting players who grew up and played beach, a lot of them want to continue to play beach,” Crosson said. “A lot of the kids that are coming here, not only this year but in the next couple years, are all California kids that have grown up on the beach.
“It’s going to be beneficial for us if we can add a sand program.”
Mustangs players said they were excited for the addition.
Senior middle blocker Jennifer Keddy has dabbled in some high level amateur beach tournaments in past summers. She has never had a specified training regimen for playing on sand, and at 6-foot-4 and a skilled passer, Keddy could have a future on the beach.
And as May-Treanor showed in a dominant professional and Olympic career with teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings, players do not have to be high flyers to excel on sand.
May-Treanor is only 5-9 and was a collegiate setter. She’s an inspiration to players such as 5-10 Cal Poly sophomore setter Maddie Kuber, who said she’s also excited to leap into the beach game next spring.
“Everybody says Kerri and I had a part in this happening, which is very flattering,” May-Treanor said. “We just play and have fun and that’s all we do. I would like to say I paved the way, but I have a hard time doing that. But it is nice we opened up another avenue for women to play the sport.”