The team has played 24 matches in its first two seasons, but Friday will be the first at home for Boise State’s sand volleyball team.
With no league schedule and many teams based in the warmer climates, Oregon and Washington are the only other schools in the Northwest that support sand volleyball, so opportunities to play at home have been scarce.
But the Broncos get their chance to host after a long wait, facing Oregon at 1 p.m. and No. 10 Arizona at 5 p.m. The Ducks and Wildcats face off at 3 p.m.
“Finally,” coach Shawn Garus said.
THE SAME GAME…SORT OF
Bumping, setting, spiking, it’s all there, but sand volleyball differs in quite a few ways from indoor volleyball.
Each team has two players, as opposed to the standard six. The teams play five, two-women pairs, ranked by ability, similar to the college tennis format, with the winning team getting three or more wins. Each individual match is best-of-three, played to 21 points in the first two sets, with the third, if necessary to 15, all needed to win by two.
“I really like that it makes you an all-around better player, you only have yourself and your teammate instead of five others that can help if you’re struggling, so you have to pull yourself up,” junior Sarah Baugh said.
Garus said the biggest transition is the venue, with the sun being a factor it never is in the indoor game, all while playing on a totally different surface.
“I can get my tan on, and it’s making me better, so I love it,” freshman Sierra Nobley said. “… getting used to playing on sand was tough at first, you can’t jump as high, but it’s so much easier on your legs.”
Even with a short season like sand volleyball’s, the Broncos hope it pays off when they’re back inside with the weather a little less friendly. Considering only two players are on the court at once, repititions go up, and the often-specialized positions in the indoor game are almost nullified in the sand, as teams will find the weakness and exploit it. Garus said only three of the 12 players on the roster had prior sand experience, but now gets “almost 50-50 interest” from potential incoming players.
“Our players see it as a breath of fresh air, learn a different style, as coaches we want to use it as something that improves the indoor game, too, attract a wider range of recruits and grow the sport,” Garus said.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS
All 12 of the players on the Broncos’ roster also play for the indoor volleyball team in the fall, where Garus is also the head coach. Few schools offer separate scholarships for sand volleyball, though next spring it will become the NCAA’s 90th official sport, off the “emerging sports list” as 51 schools are expected to sponsor teams next season.
The Broncos are 3-10 this season, 7-17 since the program began. Baugh and Nobley, with a 7-8 record as the No. 2 pair, have the team’s best record, while sophomore Laney Hayes and junior Taylor Murphey are 5-9, primarily at No. 4.