Beach volleyball teams set for Saturday debut on new courts
April 23, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Men's and women's beach volleyball players Ethan Chase and Tinsley Zentmeyer, members of Liberty University's newest club sport, have family in Florida so they are not unfamiliar with the beach scene.
But both are more accustomed to competing in the indoor game, making the move from six-player teams bounding on wooden floors to doubles tandems dueling in the sand a bit of a stretch.
"Some things are different," said Chase, who also played on the Flames' men's indoor volleyball team. "Moving in the sand's a lot slower than moving on an indoor court and jumping off a hardwood floor's a lot easier than jumping out of the sand.
"Outside of that, a lot of the game is the same," he added, noting it involves more finesse and athleticism rather than killer instincts. "It's more smarts than in indoor, where a lot of people try to use power and strength."
With the season stretching from the end of April to the end of July, when the National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association national championships will take place in Long Beach, Calif., a major adjustment is playing outside in the heat of summer compared to indoors in the dead of winter.
"With the heat, it's not the first game that's bad," said Flames head coach Drew Sherwood, who also serves as general manager of the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre and Skate Park. "It's the second, the third, the fourth game when it's 100 degrees outside. Your brain goes, your legs go, your arms go and you start making sloppy errors, whereas indoors, you've got air conditioning."
"Heat's a factor," Chase added. "It's definitely a different type of conditioning, but Drew's doing a good job to get us in shape and we're looking forward to our first tournament coming up."
This Saturday, the Flames will host their first competitive event on the new Liberty Beach Volleyball Courts, located beyond the new intramural fields at the foot of Liberty Mountain. Sherwood expects a few teams from in and out of the area, including Navy and Randolph College, coached by former Flames' men's indoor volleyball player and coach Johnathan Willis.
"We're just hoping to go out there and play our best and have a blast," Zentmeyer said. "We want to be able to encourage one another and shine for Jesus … to be an example for those that will watch."
Sherwood expects the tournament to give him a good idea of what schools are interested in competing in a regional league in the future.
"It's not going to be a high-level collegiate tournament just because it's so new," he said. "I emailed 70 different colleges' indoor teams on the East Coast and Navy's the only one to reply. They have NCAA on the West Coast, but beach on the East Coast is not big at all. So that's been the hardest thing for us — not only training people how to play beach but to get other schools interested in playing."
He has been pleased with the progress shown by Liberty's four men's and three women's doubles teams.
"The transition has gone much faster than we expected, which is good," Sherwood said. "It would be even faster if we didn't have four or five months off in the winter time. They made a lot of progression over the fall semester and then, even though we were playing volleyball over the winter, it was indoors and they went back to some old indoor habits and coming back out here is like learning it all over again."
That will put the Flames at a disadvantage in qualifying for and potentially competing at nationals over the summer.
"The schools that we'll see at nationals are schools from Florida and Texas and California, where it's summer all year round," Sherwood said. "Volleyball in California, it's a lifestyle. It's something they do all around, it's a culture. So they've been playing every day and they've grown up with beaches."
Liberty looking forward to traveling to tournaments this summer — including Virginia Beach Opens on May 18 and July 13 and the New York Long Beach Northeastern Championships on June 8-9 — to face higher level competition and share their faith.
"We're excited about those," Zentmeyer said. "They will be a lot of fun and definitely be a good test of our skills and to see how much we've improved."
"It's really exciting," added Marselus, a first-year beach player who competed indoor as a high school freshman in Arizona and junior in Korea, where his dad, John, served in the military before joining LU's Aviation Department. "It's going to be awesome, just being able to witness and to be a spiritual example to them, because it's kind of a party sport. It'll be cool to be a light to the world."