Dykstra returns to sand game at Pepperdine

Lara Dykstra was born into a volleyball family.

Her older sisters, Jenna and Devon, played volleyball at Davidson and at Colorado/UCLA respectively. Her older brother, Joey, played at USC and her younger sister Skylar is headed to UCLA. All five of them played volleyball at Redondo Union High School.

Lara, the 5-foot-10 outside hitter, began her career at Nebraska in 2011 as a libero.

“I went to Nebraska because I wanted to go to the best indoor college volleyball program in the country,” Dykstra said, “and I believe that the Nebraska volleyball program is the best.”

On Dec. 12, after the Huskers lost to Oregon in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament (15-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-17), Dykstra announced that she wanted to return to California to play sand volleyball in college.

“My love for indoor slowly faded when I realized that beach volleyball was something people could do in college,” Dykstra said. “When I was being recruited, the whole sand volleyball thing wasn’t yet approved by the NCAA. If it was, then I probably would have played beach in the first place.”

So after two years at Nebraska, Dykstra headed home.

“It was a fun experience at first but then I missed playing offense and having a larger role on the team,” Dykstra said. “I miss being able to play everything and do all the skills. I loved my time being a libero but did not like having minimal control over the outcome of the match. I love the fact that I can play offense and obviously have an impact on whether my team wins or loses.

“I missed playing beach volleyball and my family most.”

Dykstra had an immediate impact on the team her freshman year for the Cornhuskers. She set the NU freshman single-season digs record with 399 and finished second on the freshman single-season digs per set list with 3.59. She recorded her most impressive statistical performance in her very first match against New Mexico State with 28 digs.

She played in all 30 matches helping the Huskers clinch their first Big Ten title finishing the season 25-5 after losing to Kansas State in five in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

This past season, she finished with 371 digs, averaging 3.09 digs per set as the Cornhuskers made it to the NCAA quarterfinals and finished 26-7.

“Lara Dykstra informed me this week that she has lost her passion to play indoor volleyball and is moving to back to California to be closer to her family and play collegiate beach volleyball,” Nebraska head coach John Cook said to the Nebraska Journal Star on Dec. 12. “Lara started every match for us over the last two years and did a great job. She will be missed and we wish her the best.”

It was not an easy decision for Dykstra.

“I loved my time at Nebraska and do not regret going there,” Dykstra said. “I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I have grown so much as a person and athlete after experiencing Nebraska volleyball.

“It was hard for me to tell coach Cook about my decision to leave because I love Nebraska so much. I needed to make it clear to him that I absolutely love the program, coaches, team and the state itself. My decision to leave really just had to do with me missing the beach and wanting to pursue beach volleyball.”

“I decided to come back to California after my 2012 college season ended to pursue my dream of playing beach volleyball,” she said. “I am committed to Pepperdine University.”

Dykstra is no stranger to success on the beach. She has played beach volleyball growing up in AAU and USAV events and was one of the top young sand players in the country. Dykstra and teammate UCLA setter Rebecca Strehlow finished ninth at the 2010 FIVB Beach Youth World Championships in Porto, Portugal, after entering the tournament as the 24th seed. She was also one of the players picked to represent Team USA at the 2008 World Championships in The Hague, Netherlands

“My dream after college has always been to play professionally and make the Olympics one day,” Dykstra said. “Now that I can play in college, my dream is to first win a National Championship at Pepperdine.”