It’s one of the fastest growing sports in college, and no one can doubt the popularity of Pro Beach Volleyball on TV or at the Summer Olympics.
Now sand/beach volleyball has come to Morro Bay High School.
On a recent windy Tuesday afternoon, the girls of Morro Bay’s Beach Volleyball Club Team started their practice by raking the sand in the “Pirates Pit” a 3-court sand volleyball facility the school district put in earlier this year.
Lady Pirates’ Coach Jim Glinn said, “This is a rain or shine sport; but I’d rather have a little rain than this wind.”
In a way, beach volleyball is like tennis. Coach Glinn said they have three teams of two players each and they compete against a like contingent from other schools. “Beach volleyball is the fastest growing NCAA sport for women,” he said. But the sport has not yet been adopted for competition by the California Interscholastic Federation or CIF. So schools that have programs do so as club sports. Morro Bay also has a club surf team.
Last spring, the first year for the girls’ club team, the girls had to lug their equipment down to the actual beach and set up for practice. Coach Glinn said they played against Santa Barbara schools from the Channel League, so all their games were on the road.
After that first year, the school’s head volleyball coach, James Bueno, talked the district into building them some official courts.
The company working on the Measure D projects at the school was in need of a lot of fill dirt, Coach Glinn explained. “Coach Bueno gently coerced them to take their fill dirt from here.” What’s resulted is a 3-court facility that sits a few feet below grade and is right behind the home side bleachers of the football stadium.
Coach Bueno said “Everything you see here, Jim [Glinn] and I got donated. It’s been a dream come true.” The sand courts are the work of the girls and boys volleyball players getting it done with the help of the school administration. The boys will play sand volleyball starting next fall.
Coach Bueno said he started the beach volleyball club as a means to keep the players of his indoor volleyball program active in the sport. He coaches both the girls’ and boys’ volleyball teams, and the boy’s season is right now. The girls play in winter.
“I’m trying to build the indoor program,” said coach Bueno. “This keeps my volleyball girls playing volleyball. It’s a perfect fit.”
He explained that beach volleyball is a much different sport than the indoor version. “There’s only two players,” he said. “So there’s no hiding on the court. No standing your ground and waiting for the ball.” He added that both players touch the ball every time it sails over the net.
They’ve been able to put together a more localized league too. Coach Glinn said the “Central Coast League” is Morro Bay and Nipomo, and Pioneer Valley, St. Joseph’s and Righetti high schools from Santa Maria. But Morro Bay is the only school with official courts, so it’s hosting all the matches this year. They play on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 a.m. To follow the team, go online to: MBladypirates.com, where they post scores and stats of their games.
Coach Glinn said beach volleyball is a more physical sport, and the players would tend to agree.
Riley McConnell, the only girl playing this year who was on the team last year, said it helps her with her indoor game. “The sand is harder to run in than indoors,” she said.
Isara Warner said, “We’re by the beach, so it makes sense to have beach volleyball and we’re the only school with courts.”
The girls lamented last season’s lugging the nets and standards down to the beach for practice. “It took us like hours to set up,” McConnell, who plans to try and play the sport in college, said.
Mai Kiyama said she plays for fun but beach volleyball is a lot of work and “really fun to watch.”
There’s also the weather — wind and sun — to factor in. Christelle Mauret said, “You have to be smart with every play.”
Coach Bueno added, “It’s fun. And it keeps them excited about volleyball.”