The UA's sand volleyball team opens its season on March 7 with the Arizona Invitational.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics
Sand volleyball is the newest addition to not only to the University of Arizona's sports lineup, but the NCAA's as well.
Being turned into a team sport for the first time, here are some of the details fans need to know to be ready for another exciting Wildcat sport.
The season will get kicked off with a Red-Blue Exhibition at noon on Saturday, while the official season opener will take place March 7 with the Arizona Invitational.
The sport will be referred to as sand volleyball, as opposed to beach volleyball, in the NCAA's effort to encourage as many schools as possible to add the sport, instead of limiting it to colleges with easy access to beaches.
The sport was classified as an "emerging sport" beginning in 2011 by the NCAA, which means that sand volleyball has 10 years to establish itself before a reclassification review becomes necessary. The sport could become a "championship sport" prior to the conclusion of that 10-year window if 40 or more schools officially sponsor the sport for two years running. There are currently 40 schools that will have sand volleyball this season.
Sand volleyball is played with a two-player team and events include both dual matches and tournament formats. Dual competition under NCAA guidelines will operate in a manner similar to college tennis.
In a dual meet, each school will field five doubles teams ranked by ability. Each doubles team plays against the corresponding team or teams from other schools with each doubles match worth one point. The team meet is won by the school capturing three of the five matches.
NCAA sand volleyball uses a best-of-three rally-scoring format. A set is won by the doubles team that first scores 21 points with a minimum winning margin of two points. In the case of a 1-1 tie, the deciding set is played to 15 points with a minimum winning margin of two points.
Tournament play will still employ flights. Points are awarded based on finish in each of the five brackets and a total team score determines the winner of the event.
Another wrinkle is that while players on women's volleyball aid can participate in sand volleyball, players receiving sand volleyball aid will only be allowed to play sand volleyball and cannot compete on the indoor team.
The sand volleyball season will begin in March, and teams will have to play a minimum of eight competitions, with a maximum of 16, under NCAA guidelines.
Differences Between Sand and Indoor Volleyball
Sand volleyball is officiated much differently than court volleyball. No open-handed tipping is allowed and setting is called so tightly in sand volleyball that the bump set is more popular than the overhead set.
The block touch counts as the first of the three allowable contacts.
Coaches may only speak to players or give them any kind of input or feedback during timeouts and between sets.
To mitigate the impact of wind and sun, the players switch sides of the court every seven points in a 21 point set and every five points in a 15 point set.
Steve Walker, former associate coach with the indoor team and former professional beach volleyball player, is the head coach of the inaugural Arizona sand volleyball team. He is assisted by Claire D’Amore with Melissa Walker serving as the volunteer assistant coach.
The Wildcats will play at the brand-new Arizona Sand Volleyball Courts located at Jimenez Field. The courts are on the corner of Enke Drive and Campbell Avenue, where the former football practice fields were located.
Fans are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and/or blankets. There will be no bleacher seating. Admission will be free for fans at all home events.
The uniform regulations are the same for sand volleyball as they are for collegiate track and field. Uniforms must cover the midriff of the body when the student-athlete is standing still. Numbering and logo regulations follow the same parameters as other NCAA sports.
The playing season starts in March and lasts eight weeks or until the end of the school year. Arizona will play the Division I minimum of eight dates – six of dual matches and two tournaments and three home events on March 7, March 14 and April 26. Because sand volleyball is an emerging sport, the NCAA is not sponsoring a sand volleyball national championship in 2014. However, the American Volleyball Coaches Association will sponsor the 2014 Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship, April 27-29, in Gulf Shores, Ala., consisting of both a team and pairs championship. Invitations to participate will be based on 2014 season results and tournament selections will be made by a committee.