Long Beach set to serve inaugural beach volleyball season

Long Beach City College takes to the sand for its first-ever beach volleyball season in 2017.
Long Beach City College takes to the sand for its first-ever beach volleyball season in 2017.

LONG BEACH, Calif. - The history of beach volleyball has been deeply rooted in the California lifestyle since the early 1920s. It was an inexpensive escape for most families and friends to unwind and take their minds off difficult times surrounding them such as the Great Depression and World War I. It would have been a stretch to say any beach volleyball advocate could have predicted the rapid spread of the sport and its highly-touted popularity in today's day and age. It certainly has gained and maintained lasting traction worldwide, specifically at the collegiate and professional level.

After the first know contest was said to be played on the beaches of Santa Monica, CA just 30 miles up the coast in 1920, the sport rapidly expanded into countries such as France, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, and many more. Nowadays, the sport is booming on the coast of California in numerous locations such as Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and many more.

For student-athletes that live and breathe beach volleyball, they are in more luck than ever before. The sport of beach volleyball is now supported by 73 NCAA institutions in 17 states and 35 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) colleges. At the NCAA level, an average scholarship of $12,129 was awarded to numerous beach volleyball athletes at the DI, DII, and NAIA levels according to a study conducted in 2015.

The diversity of the sport is equally as interesting an appealing to a student-athlete since the sport is classified as an "equivalency sport", meaning the scholarship can be split in half to accommodate for a student-athlete who plays both indoor and beach volleyball. At the Division-I level, the scholarship total was at an average of $17,236, as they are the highest-thriving division that features five major conferences that stretch across the nation.

The Long Beach City College Department of Athletics will be jumping into the beach volleyball world by launching their first season of intercollegiate athletic competition in 2017 by joining the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. To add to the excitement, the Vikings squad will be helmed by the most decorated beach volleyball athlete in history in the form of Misty May-Treanor.

May-Treanor shined on the biggest and brightest stages in beach volleyball that the world has to offer. She hauled in three Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012) as well as three gold medals at the Beach Volleyball World Championships. Additionally, May-Treanor is a staple in the Long Beach community having won a NCAA Division-I State Championship at Cal State Long Beach in 1998 and two California State Championships at Newport Harbor High School (1991-1995). Next up on the list is helming the Long Beach City College Vikings as the Indoor and Beach Head Coach and Director of Volleyball Operations.

"The girls are really working hard and I'm trying to bring a new culture to the program," said May-Treanor. "Building a first-year program is a lot of fun and knowing that it will help the girls indoor as well is great. Plus, you can't have an athletic program that has 'Long Beach' in the title without beach volleyball."

The growth of the sport is evident and May-Treanor understands that it has opened doors to many student-athletes who wish to pursue an education and a playing career at a four-year university.

"It is nice to see that the sport has grown so much and I would like to think that Keri [Walsh-Jennings] and I had a huge part in that. For the student-athletes, it is great for them to have another avenue to a four-year university."

When asked about her outlook on the inaugural season, May-Treanor was highly optimistic in her team's potential.

"Our goal is to make our teammates better every day. We have enough depth for seven teams, so it's a nice luxury to be able to switch things up match-to-match. There will be ups and downs, but we are excited on what we have in our team."

Director of Athletics and former LBCC Head Men's Volleyball Coach Randy Totorp was one of the driving factors in adding the sport. He, like many others in the Long Beach community, is an active indoor and beach volleyball advocate.

"I am proud that we have successfully added women's beach volleyball to the great LBCC athletic history," explained Totorp, who won a CCCAA State Championship in 2004, 2006, and 2009 with the LBCC men's volleyball team.

"The ability to add a viable women's sport opportunity that has tremendous interest and CCCAA competition speaks loudly to Long Beach City College's commitment to our community and students. Women's beach volleyball continues to grow exponentially at the collegiate level and it is exciting to be a full participant."

The women's beach volleyball team has been a highly anticipated venture and adding May-Treanor to the mix only boosted the hype.

"This excitement on our campus and within the community erupted when we announced the hiring of Misty May-Treanor to take the lead on building our first ever women's beach team. While the expectations to perform in athletics are always high, we are grounded and inspired by the reality that the new sport will deliver increased student success with feasible transfer/scholarships opportunities."

Long Beach will look to numerous athletes that made a huge impact on the hardwood during the 2016 indoor volleyball season. The Vikings reached the second round of playoffs at the helm of May-Treanor with an overall record of 19-5.

Sophomore Sarah Miller (Long Beach, CA) highlights the athletes after being named the South Coast Conference (SCC) - South Most Valuable Player. Freshman Paige Pantor (Southlake, TX), Division-I transfer and former Texas A&M University volleyball player, looks to add to the mix. Other key players include sophomore Jessica Kaeka (Long Beach, CA), freshman Jordan Diaz (La Habra, CA), freshman Valeria Payan (Pacoima, CA), and freshman Mariah Clausen (Bellflower, CA). Diaz, Payan and Kaeka were named to the SCC-South All-Conference list in indoor volleyball.

LBCC's schedule features numerous CCCAA competitors highlighted by conference matchups against the EL Camino College Warriors and the Rio Hondo College Roadrunners. Long Beach will host the Long Beach Legend's Quad this Friday, February 24th beginning at 10 a.m. at Granada Beach in Long Beach, Calif.

(Courtesy Nicho DellaValle, Long Beach City College Athletics)