BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Cavaliers bring beach volleyball to Tulare County

Central Valley Christian plans to start the first CIF sanctioned beach volleyball program in Tulare County

VISALIA – As indoor volleyball players are drawn to beach volleyball clubs in the offseason, CVC has made a plan to start a beach volleyball program. Senior Karlee De Groot has already committed to FSU.

Central Valley Christian School is working on starting the first CIF sanctioned beach volleyball program in Tulare County. As the fastest-growing NCAA sport, beach volleyball presents a lot of recruitment opportunities for athletes looking to continue a sport in college. Though there are several opportunities to play with a club in the valley, not every student can afford the fees or travel and CVC hopes to start a school program that will allow students the same opportunities as a club team. Athletes at CVC like senior Karlee De Groot are already being recruited by college programs for beach volleyball.

“There’s already been a lot of attention surrounding beach volleyball coming out of [CVC] as far as athletes being recruited,” club coach Tyler Ortman said. “I know a lot of parents were interested in getting the program started.”

The Cavaliers have all of the netting and materials they need to build their beach volleyball courts and have a season this year, but haven’t been able to begin construction due to the rain. Since the beach volleyball season is so short, lasting from late February through the end of the school year, the program has been postponed to next year.

Many indoor volleyball players have recently picked up playing beach volleyball in the offseason in order to improve their indoor game. While indoor volleyball has six players on the court for each team, beach volleyball only has two, so there are more opportunities to touch the ball. Players get more practice with digs, sets and hits as well as serving. It helps players develop jump strength because jumping on sand requires more force.

“In indoor you may touch a ball once out of every 12 balls,” Ortman said. “But on the beach you’re guaranteed one or two touches every single rally unless you’re getting aced or making an error.”

That’s exactly why De Groot began playing beach volleyball the summer before her junior year. She was hoping to make the varsity indoor volleyball at CVC and began playing beach volleyball with Shorebreak Volleyball Club in Clovis. She wanted to get more touches on the ball and work harder in the offseason. That work paid off and she made the varsity her junior year.

“That was the summer that the coaches talked to me and said they really think this could be something that I could pursue,” De Groot said.

De Groot got to play in a recruiting tournament in Santa Monica last October, where she was spotted by Summer Nash, the assistant coach for beach volleyball at Florida State University. De Groot was able to speak to Nash and tell her about herself as a person and athlete. De Groot ended up going to a camp at FSU in February and was offered a spot on the team a week later. She has officially committed to going to FSU next year for beach volleyball.

“I’m so glad that [my coaches] pushed me to do it because now it’s truly my favorite sport that I’ve ever played and I’m so excited to be able to pursue it in college,” De Groot said.

Over the past five years beach volleyball has been the fastest-growing NCAA sport according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association. California, particularly Southern California, is considered by many in the AVCA to be the epicenter of beach volleyball. Even though it has been a part of the Olympics since 1996, it took until the 2011-12 academic year for it to be played in college. Since then, it has grown far outside of Southern California at the college level but is still becoming popular at the high school level.

Girls’ beach volleyball was approved by the CIF Federated Council beginning with the 2021-22 school year and many schools began developing programs. While CVC will be the first in Tulare County, schools in Bakersfield, Fresno and San Luis Obispo have developed programs already. Ortman’s club has participants from a few schools in the area, including Redwood and Visalia. The hope is that once CVC starts their program, other schools in Tulare County will follow.

There aren’t more opportunities for scholarships in beach volleyball, even fewer are available than indoor volleyball. But as the fastest growing sport, one fully entrenched in the culture of California, it presents an opportunity for girls to play a spring sport that isn’t softball or track and field. For indoor players especially, it will help them grow their game in the offseason, without the cost of playing for a club.

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