Arizona adds sand volleyball as varsity sport

Arizona adds sand volleyball as varsity sport

Published Jan. 15, 2013 2:37 p.m. ET

TUCSON, Ariz. – University of Arizona director of athletics Greg Byrne announced Tuesday the addition of women’s sand volleyball as a varsity sport.

Steve Walker, associated head coach of Arizona's indoor volleyball program, has been named the new program’s first head coach. The team will begin competing in Spring 2014.

”This is an exciting day for the University of Arizona and our volleyball program,” said Byrne.  “With our strengths as an athletics department – including strong indoor volleyball, great interest from our fans and weather that is very conducive to outdoor activity – it’s a natural fit for us.”

Sand volleyball was added by the NCAA in August 2011 for Division I competition. Fifteen universities sponsored the sport in its inaugural year, and 29 will compete in 2012-13.

In order to be an officially sponsored NCAA championship sport, there must be 40 competing institutions in two consecutive seasons.  Within the Pac-12 Conference, four schools presently sponsor the sport (California, Stanford, UCLA, USC), with at least one other member considering adding the sport.

Arizona was the first state in the nation to add sand volleyball as a high school varsity sport in 2011-12 with California following in 2012-13.  Yhere are more than 350 youth club participants in the sport in the Arizona region.

The school will offer a maximum of six scholarship. The maximum roster size will grow to 14 student-athletes by 2014-15.

Sand volleyball features five two-woman teams ranked by ability, and each duo plays against the corresponding teams from other schools. In a dual meet, the winning team is the school winning three of five matches. Individual matches are two sets played to 21 points, with a tiebreaker set to 15, if needed.

Walker served as an assistant coach with the Wildcats for three seasons from 2003-05, left to become the women's volleyball head coach at UC Davis for two seasons and returned to Dave Rubio's staff at Arizona in 2007.

“Sand volleyball is one of the fasting growing sports in the country,” said deputy director of athletics Rocky LaRose. “With growing national interest, and in particular within the high school ranks in the state of Arizona, this was a natural fit. ... I’m excited for the new opportunities for our women, and thrilled to continue to grow our women’s programs.”

The sport is the first added by Arizona since women’s indoor track and field in 1998. Arizona currently sponsors 11 women’s sports (basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and volleyball) and eight men’s sports (baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, swimming and diving, tennis and outdoor track and field).