by Lauren Karwoski
The University of Tampa women’s beach volleyball team is gearing up for the 2020 season following their victory at the 2019 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Small College Championships. This will be the program’s third year at UT, after being added as a Division I NCAA sport in the spring of 2018 and finishing fourth in the AVCA Championships during their inaugural season. The team concluded last season with an overall record of 20-10 and has already been training for the upcoming season.
“The biggest challenge I think our team will face is upholding our National Championship title from last year, while trying to break the Top 20 for the first time in school history” said Kiana Sawtelle, exercise and nutritional science graduate student.
Tampa will face multiple teams ranked in the NCAA Top 20 during their 2020 season such as tenth ranked Florida International on Saturday, Feb. 29 and eighteenth ranked Florida Atlantic on Saturday, March 7. The Spartans will kick off their season playing in the Florida State Tournament facing powerhouses Cal Poly and Louisiana Monroe on Saturday, Feb. 22, followed by Houston Baptist and Florida State on Sunday, Feb 23.
“We’ve been training and conditioning really hard to get ready to compete against the DI schools we’re going to play,” said senior allied health major, Katie McKiel. “We really want to come out as strong as we can and be competitive against whoever we play and hopefully get some upsets.”
Practices have already begun for the 28 women on the roster who are eager to bring home another championship.
“Our biggest strength as a team is that we are super competitive, there’s a limited number of traveling positions so everyone has been battling out to earn a spot and has caused everyone to step up their game which will help is against other schools,” said McKiel.
Two players to keep an eye on this season will be sophomore biology major, Julia Oswald and sophomore psychology and criminology major, Rachel Rosequist who both earned AVCA national pair of the week honors last season. In addition to being the first two players from UT to ever receive this title, they were also the first players from an NCAA Division II institution to receive the honor during the 2019 season.
The team is coached by Jeff Lamm, who previously spent 15 seasons as an assistant coach to UT’s indoor volleyball team. He is in his 22nd year coaching volleyball at the high school and collegiate level.
Assistant coach, Kim Amerell is in her third year with the team. During her undergraduate years, she played for UT’s indoor team during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
“Coach Lamm has been pushing us hard in practice to focus on the details and improving the smaller parts of the game,” said freshman secondary education major, Claire Overton. “When we can focus on the details in practice, they will happen in a game situation.”
“He has noticed that we are competing as hard as we can on and off the court and rewards us by giving us some well needed rest time,” said junior marketing major, Taylor George. “That keeps us motivated to continue ramping up the intensity and get better each time we have the opportunity.”
The Spartans will host both North Carolina-Wilmington and Tusculum for their first home game double header on Tuesday, March 10.
Lauren Karwoski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org