By KIMBERLY CONROY
The University of Tampa Athletics Department has announced the addition of women’s beach volleyball as a new intercollegiate sport beginning in Spring 2018. With the addition of the new sport, Tampa now sponsors 20 intercollegiate teams through the NCAA, including eight men’s and 12 women’s athletic programs.
Spartans director of athletics, Larry Marfise, is excited for the addition of the new sport. “The goal is that we get the program off its feet, we want the team playing well, not necessarily winning, but most importantly that we have students participating well academically as well,” Marfise said.
Beach volleyball, an emerging NCAA sport has made the quickest transition from an emerging sport to a championship sport in NCAA history. Over 40 NCAA four-year colleges and universities, four NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) institutions and more than 20 two-year colleges sponsor varsity sand volleyball programs across the country. According to the AVCA, American Coaches Volleyball Association, as of January 2015, 50 schools nationwide sponsored the sport. The Spartans indoor team have played in sand volleyball tournaments in the past, but it is during the off season throughout the spring and mixed into the normal spring practice schedule.
The beach volleyball team is a completely separate program from the two-time National Championship winning indoor team. Women’s volleyball assistant coach, Jeff Lamm, will be head coach for the new team.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to build beach volleyball into a nationally competitive program here at UT,” Lamm said. “I plan on taking the strengths I’ve learned coaching indoor onto the beach.”
He has been with the volleyball program here at Tampa for 15 years. He has also been with the team for each of the National Championships won in 2006 and 2014. Lamm runs the offense, helped with practice planning along with game plans and trained specific players.
“I plan on taking the same culture of work ethic and the drive the indoor program has been known for and translate that into the beach team,” Lamm said. “We want to be our best and give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. If we enjoy the process and give max effort the rest will fall into place.”
Additionally, in 2011, Lamm was named AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year. Since Lamm’s addition to the program, the Spartans have won 14 Sunshine State Conference (SSC) championships and had 11 NCAA Elite Eight appearances.
The team will play on the new courts that were added next to the Fitness and Recreation Center. The team will be practicing in preparation for dual matches running from late February into mid-April 2018.
The only other team in the SSC who has both a sand and indoor team is Eckerd College. There are currently 10 other schools in Florida that offer beach volleyball as a collegiate sport. Eckerd introduced sand volleyball to their athletic department in the 2014-2015 academic year. Along with UT, Florida Southern, also in the SSC, will be adding sand volleyball to their department in 2018.
According to Marfise, the sport was a good fit for three reasons: It provides the opportunity for additional students to play a sport, several other Florida schools have added the sport and the university is expanding recruitment to California, where the sport is extremely popular.
The 2017 beach volleyball roster will consist of a few members of the 2017 indoor team.
These members are able to participate in both sports because the sand volleyball season runs during the spring, with the championships held in early May. The other part of the team will be strictly beach players. The team will hold 15-20 total players.
In NCAA sand volleyball, team competitions consist of five player pairs playing best two-out-of-three set doubles matches against one another, with the winner being the first to claim three of the five matches. Teams are required to take part in a minimum of eight matches on a maximum of 16 playing dates.
You can follow the new team’s social media at @tampabeachvb.