Cash looking forward to sand season
With the popularity of the event at the Summer Olympics, beach volleyball was recently added as an NCAA sport and held its first collegiate season during the 2011-12 academic year.
And despite the newness of what the NCAA calls sand volleyball, the availability of the sport is already having an affect on the indoor game.
With just 17 schools offering the program, middle blocker Samantha Cash wanted to go to a college with both an indoor and a sand volleyball program.
So she chose Pepperdine, where she could play both.
"I love the teamwork during indoor and how every play depends on every player," Cash said. "Beach is different, first of all, you are outside and it’s not always sunny so you have to know how to play in the wind and rain. It is just a different game, because there are only two of you on the court so not only do you have to completely trust each other but you have to play smart and you have to be able to play every position (set, pass, hit, block serve).
"It’s also fun to dive in the sand and play in the beautiful locations, like where we practice at Zuma beach."
Pepperdine’s top sand team of Summer Ross and Caitlyn Racich won the American Volleyball Coaches Association Collegiate Sand Volleyball Pairs Championship in the inaugural 2012 Collegiate Sand Volleyball season. The NCAA will sponsor an official Championship after 40 institutions have sponsored varsity programs for two-year teams. Eight more schools will add the program in 2012-13, joining the 17 initial teams.
The second sand season will begin during the first week in March. Cash is expecting to play regularly after redshirting in sand her freshman year.
"It’s very exciting because more and more girls are playing," Cash said. "There are clubs for young girls forming all over the country. It’s great because so many young people are playing and whether or not they play in college or professionally it just keeps the sport alive and gives women the opportunity to play another sport."
Growing up in San Diego, Cash played beach off and on. But she was very accomplished indoor. She was named 2011 Canyon Crest Academy Athlete of the Year, a 2010 AVCA Under Armour All American and 2010 North County Times Player of the Year.
"My parents weren't that thrilled watching softball and encouraged me to try volleyball." Cash said. "Of course when I first started I was incredibly awkward and it wasn't very exciting, but I loved the teamwork and it is just so much fun to play."
Thirty-year Pepperdine head coach Nina Matthies - who was an intricate part of starting the sand program at the collegiate level - recruited Cash, referring to her as "a coach’s dream."
"First she is a solid 6-foot-3 middle who would run through walls for a ball, teammates as well. So you best get out of her way," Matthies said. "She always has a smile on her face, loves to train, loves to play and is a joy to be around."
Cash made an immediate impact in her first year, being named WCC Freshman of the Year in indoor volleyball in 2011-12 as the Waves won the WCC Championship and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament, finishing sixth in the nation.
"She understands the game extremely well, is very cerebral in her practice and game preparation and execution, goes hard at everything she does, from the moment she steps into the gym until the final whistle blows," Matthies said. "She is considerate and appreciative of others and is thankful everyday that she gets to play volleyball.
"She has earned the team’s complete trust and admiration by her work ethic as that is a constant, never varying trait."
Her sophomore season was a bit more challenging. The Waves were one of a record-six WCC teams to to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament after a fifth-place finish in the conference with an 8-8 WCC record, 20-11 overall. Pepperdine would blow a two-set lead and fall in five, 3-2 (25-15, 25-20, 21-25, 21-25, 9-15) to Dayton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Cash battled a sprained ankle which caused her to miss five matches and saw her stats decline from her outstanding freshman season. But she is healthy now and will have the opportunity to start her sand career this spring.
"I am just getting started," Cash said. "So I am anxious to get on the sand this season."
Matthies added, "Samantha is an All-American in my book. One of the most accomplished middle blockers in the country, she is just scratching the surface of her sand game.
"With great things in her future, [she] just needs more time in the sand."