Pepperdine Adds Sand Volleyball to its List of Sponsored NCAA Sports
Caitlin Racich trades indoor for sand volleyball, and becomes the Waves' first sand volleyball scholarship recipient.
Aug. 11, 2011
MALIBU, Calif. – The Pepperdine University Department of Athletics announced today that it will add women’s sand volleyball as an intercollegiate sport under the direction of indoor coach Nina Matthies, one of the best beach volleyball players in the history of the sport.
“We are excited to add women’s sand volleyball to the Pepperdine athletic program and believe it will prove to be a popular sport for our community,” Director of Athletics Dr. Steve Potts said. “Volleyball has a great tradition here and we are committed to building a championship women’s sand volleyball program. Also, we are fortunate to have one of the sport’s greatest players, Nina Matthies, as our head coach.”
In January 2010, the NCAA added sand volleyball to its list of emerging sports for women for Division I with a start date of the 2011-12 school year. The sport will begin competition in spring 2012, likely at the start of March, and will run for approximately two months.
The Waves have the built-in advantage of having world-class beaches just across the street from campus and up and down the coast, and will begin competition by using one of several already-existing sand volleyball spots to practice and compete. In the future, the possibility exists that on-campus facilities will be added.
Matthies and the Waves began gearing up for sand volleyball by taking a date out of their spring schedule each of the last three years to take part in the USA Volleyball Beach Collegiate Championship. Pepperdine won the team title in both 2009 and 2011.
“Where we are is such a great spot for sand volleyball,” Matthies said. “We’re one of the few schools that can truly say we’re right at the beach already. Pepperdine and sand volleyball are like two peas in a pod, it’s such a great fit.
“When the ball got rolling for sand volleyball becoming an NCAA sport, I wanted in. I really appreciate the work that the AVCA and Kathy DeBoer did to make this happen.”
Matthies, who begins her 29th year as head coach of the Waves’ women’s indoor team in 2011, was recognized as one of the top beach players in the world before she retired in 1992. An inductee into both the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association Hall of Fame and the Manhattan Beach Volleyball Walk of Fame, Matthies won 43 titles and had 93 podium finishes in 139 career beach appearances.
Volleyball Magazine named Matthies as one of the "Most Influential People in the First 100 Years of Volleyball." In 2004, she was named to the 75th Anniversary All-Era Team by USA Volleyball.
Many of her players have gone on to success on the professional beach tours as well, most notably Nicole Sanderson (who finished fourth at the 2004 Olympics for her native Australia), Mary Bailey (who recently retired after more than 25 years of competition), Christina Hinds (who is attempting to make the Greek sand volleyball team for the 2012 Olympics) and Carrie-Romer Wright.
Matthies will also continue to coach the indoor team, where she has a career record of 530-313 (.629). Her assistants will take on different roles during the spring, with Marcio Sicoli focusing on sand volleyball and Tim Jensen continuing to work with the indoor team during its spring practice and exhibition season.
Pepperdine’s first-ever recipient of a sand volleyball scholarship is junior Caitlin Racich (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos HS), who has chosen to forego playing indoor in order to focus on sand volleyball. The initial NCAA rules for the sport state that players on an indoor scholarship may play sand volleyball, but those on a sand volleyball scholarship may not play indoor. Matthies anticipates 12 to 14 of the 18 players on her 2011 indoor roster will end up playing sand volleyball this spring.
“My vision is that eventually we’ll have six kids on sand volleyball scholarships, six kids on indoor scholarships and others on indoor scholarships who are hybrids that will play both,” Matthies said.
Matthies is still working on scheduling the spring season while the final count of schools that will initially sponsor sand volleyball is still being counted. It is anticipated that the spring will culminate in some sort of championship event (40 schools must sponsor the sport for it to become an official NCAA Championship).
ADDITIONAL Q&A WITH HEAD COACH Nina Matthies
Q: You’ve been a part of the process of making sand volleyball into an NCAA sport since its infancy, but what is your reaction now that the vision has become a reality?
A: “I’m ecstatic! Pepperdine is well suited to play sand volleyball. It fits in well with what we are already doing with the indoor team, and it fits within the culture of Pepperdine. It’s exciting to be a part of this from the very beginning, and to be involved in the start of the new tradition here at this school. It’s not just a new chapter we are opening, but an entirely new book.”
Q: What is the biggest challenge for both coaches and student-athletes with the addition of sand volleyball to their schedules?
A: “I don’t really know if it is a challenge at this point. We’ve always incorporated sand volleyball to our workouts during our spring exhibition season, so there won’t be too many drastic changes this year. We’ve competed at the USA Volleyball Collegiate Challenge the past few years, so we’re already used to competing in the sand arena. As the sport grows, there may be more challenges as we become separate groups. It is my goal that the indoor and sand teams remain an integrated group, and that as coaches, we are able to maintain a balanced environment for our student-athletes.”
Q: What will the team and schedule look like this season?
A: “Right now we are looking to have a 12-person roster. Caitlin Racich is currently on the roster, and we’ll hold tryouts in January to determine the rest. The format of competition is still up on the air. It’s going to be the year to experiment with different formats, see what works and what doesn’t, and decide what is best for collegiate sand volleyball.”
Q: What opportunities does this create for student-athletes after college?
A: “There’s a limited amount of volleyball that can be played after a student-athlete has graduated from college. Some go pro in Europe, but that’s mostly for national team members. Now with sand volleyball, that’s another option as a feeder to national teams or perhaps another professional tour. This will help with the Olympic development program for the U.S., something that’s needed. It’s happening all around the world. We have some of the top teams, but it’s not deep.”
Q: How does this benefit women’s athletics in general?
A: “Volleyball, period, is one of the best showcases for female athletes. The sport, sand or indoor, showcases their athletic abilities very, very well.”