March 9, 2013
By Andrew Jennette
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - On Saturday, the women's collegiate sand volleyball season kicked off with the Ron Jon Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship. Six colleges brought five pairs apiece to picturesque Cocoa Beach, Fla. to compete in a round robin, then bracket-style tournament sponsored by UCF volleyball. With five courts in play all afternoon, there was plenty of action for spectators to enjoy in the sun.
Our partnership with a great city like Cocoa Beach allows us to connect with the local community which is great for us moving forward, assistant coach Nicki Holmes said. "We couldn't be happier to get involved with an emerging sport like sand volleyball."
The six teams competing this weekend, Stetson, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Louisiana-Monroe, Webber and North Florida, are among 30 current varsity programs in the country. The NCAA expects over 45 teams to be full-time collegiate sand volleyball programs by the 2014 season.
We firmly believe that the Central Florida area can be the east coast capital of the collegiate sand volleyball movement, UCF head volleyball coach Todd Dagenais said. There is a great opportunity for our area to be a destination point for the multitude of collegiate sand volleyball programs that are popping up.
The Atlantic Sun is currently the only conference in the nation with enough sand volleyball programs to sponsor a championship. Therefore, the A-Sun champion receives an automatic bid to the AVCA National tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala. in early May. The rest of teams in the nation compete independently for one of the remaining five AVCA tournament spots. Two teams will qualify from each the Southeast and West regions, plus one team will be selected with an at-large berth.
"Although UCF doesn't yet have a sand volleyball program, we are committed to growing the sport in our area and of course we hope the opportunity presents itself in the near future for us to be able to sponsor sand volleyball as a varsity program, Dagenais continued. We are excited to partner with great companies like Molton, the exclusive volleyball provider for the event, and Ron Jon Surf Shop to present what we feel will be the premier opening weekend collegiate sand volleyball tournament for varsity programs in the country.