Sand volleyball is coming to the state of Maryland as Stevenson University has become the first Division III school to add the sport to its athletic program. Women's sand volleyball will be the 26th sport at the university.
The NCAA's vote to add sand volleyball as a sponsored sport, combined with the addition of men's ice hockey to the athletic program, paved the way for the breakthrough at Stevenson.
"We knew we were going to start men's ice hockey, and I believe in Title IX, and I believe the values of it," Stevenson athletic director Brett Adams said. "So, we knew we were going to add a women's sport, so the question was which would it be?"
Following the landslide vote in favor of creating one national champion for sand volleyball in Division I, II and III -- along with being accepted as a Division III sport -- it was almost a no-brainer for Stevenson.
"As an athletic director representing Stevenson, that told me that 400 athletic directors in Division III at least liked the opportunity for any of us to add sand volleyball as a sport," Adams said. "That made a lot of sense for us, because volleyball has been very good at Stevenson, in particular women's volleyball."
The Mustangs' women's indoor volleyball program has made the NCAA tournament in four consecutive seasons. Current indoor women's volleyball head coach Dave Trumbo will now head both teams, bringing several of his indoor players over to the sand team for the team's first season. In the fall of 2016, Trumbo will bring in his first sand volleyball recruiting class.
"I am super excited, because we are trying to take both programs to a very high level," Trumbo said. "We feel like adding sand will definitely increase our level of the indoor program, and we're going to be able to recruit some excellent dual-sport athletes that will take the indoor program to a higher level."
Sand volleyball will be two-on-two competition, with 10 players competing in each match. There will be five pairs competing, and the first school to win three of five games will win the match. For an official NCAA season, a team must compete on eight separate dates.
Trumbo is still in the process of working out the schedule for the inaugural season. But the Mustangs are planning on making two trips to Florida and will host a pair of matches late in the season.
Since Stevenson is the first Division III school with a sand volley program, all of the schools the Mustangs play against will be either Division I or Division II schools. However, based on the number of athletic directors who voted to make it an NCAA sponsored sport, more schools will likely be adding sand volleyball in the near future. As the first Division III school to add sand volleyball, Trumbo hopes his team will have an advantage over other schools that eventually add the sport.
"We're just trying to get as good as we can and see some improvement," Trumbo said. "We feel like we're ahead of the curve, because we do feel like other Division III schools will pick this up. We'll be ahead of the curve -- get a couple of seasons under our belt."
As part of building the program, Stevenson will need to add sand volleyball courts to its facilities. There are currently no indoor sand volleyball courts in Maryland, so this will be a challenge in the early stages of the program. Three courts are required for competition, and Trumbo said Stevenson plans to build four sand volleyball courts in the athletic facility.
Once the program is established, Trumbo's hope is that adding the sport before other schools will transition into success on both the sand volleyball and indoor volleyball circuits.
"Long-term, I think sand volleyball is going to take off in Division III, and we want to be one of the top Division III sand schools in the country," Trumbo said. "Our goal in the indoor program is to win a national championship, and we really feel like this will help us get there."
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