UCLA's sand program lands in good hands
USA Olympian and UCLA alum Stein Metzger will take the helm of the UCLA women’s sand program in the school's inaugural season, beginning this spring.
UCLA Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero announced that UCLA will add women’s sand volleyball as an intercollegiate sport.
Metzger set for the Bruins from 1993-96 and won three national
championships. He also gained a wealth of experience playing in the AVP Tour as well as the Beach Volleyball World Championships.
Metzger took his experience and turned it over to coaching where led over 60 professionals on the sand last year. He also got back in the gym as a volunteer assistant coach for the UCLA women’s indoor program.
“I can’t get it out of my system, I love the sport too much,” Metzger said.
“I moved back to Hawaii with my wife, where I’m from, as we were raising kids. But I found that I couldn’t get away from volleyball, I just love it too much. It’s too fun. The obvious next step after competing as a player is competing as a coach and passing along what I learned over the last 30 years playing the sport,” he added.
This marks UCLA’s 25th sport, which includes 15 for women and 10 for men. The Bruins are one of the 14 schools to add a sand volleyball program in 2013 with a successful inaugural year in the 2011-12 season where 15 schools participated.
There will be 29 teams competing in sand volleyball this year, including Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC from the Pac-12 and another 47 considering adding the sport for the 2014 season. To reach NCAA status, the sport must have 40 teams compete for two years. That goal is hoped to be reached by 2016.
"Although sand volleyball is in its early stages, I have no doubt that it will grow into a very popular and thrilling NCAA sport," said women’s UCLA indoor volleyball coach Michael Sealy. "I am excited about our decision to start competing this season, and even more excited that Stein Metzger will be at the helm. Stein has been successful at every level of the sport and I know that coaching will be no different."
The Bruins will be utilizing their talented deep field of indoor players for their first season in the sand. They hope to grow into be able to have scholarships in the future.
“The entire indoor team is totally jazzed about getting out there. We’re just taking the entire indoor team and making them pass and set a million balls just to get them used to having an uneven surface under bare feet.”
Two Bruins have already made tracks on the sand.
Junior outside hitter Kelly Reeves has some experience on the beach, competing in youth beach tournaments and freshman setter Rebecca Strehlow is a member of the USA Beach Volleyball Youth National Team, where she has had the opportunity to compete at the national level.
“Our goals are to make complete athletes. On the beach, there is no hiding. There are no substitutions, you can’t sub somebody out, you can’t stick them in the corner and have somebody else do the passing,” Metzger said.
“It’s the opponent who decides what skill you’re going to play. If you have a weakness whether it be passing, setting, or hitting, the opponent’s going to make you do it over and over and over until you get better at it. I think that’s the most exciting thing for these indoor athletes, they are so used to being pigeon holed in a position and getting really good at one skill and not others … this is going to be an opportunity for them to get better at those other skills and become a more well-rounded athlete.”
“Being on the sand is the perfect mix — it’s different enough that you can become a better athlete and more aware of yourself — but it’s close enough that its really going to help your skills for indoor as well. It’s the perfect blend. And you can’t beat the environment.”
The Bruins practice facility will be right in the hub of the ground zero of beach volleyball in Santa Monica at the Annenberg Beach House.
“Were all working hard and working toward growing this program and making it something that’s here to stay and compete on a level that a couple of other schools are at in giving scholarships. We’re excited about entertaining the idea about finding some athletes that are good at both indoor and beach,” Metzger said.
Metzger feels the sky could be the limit for sand volleyball with the opportunity to build a learning foundation of the beach game while still in college.
“The collegiate system for volleyball has really paraded so much opportunity for women in this country that would be great if beach volleyball could do the same. Metzger said.
“It would be nice to find the next Misty May and Kerri Walsh in the next four to ten years.”
Metzger went on to compete on the AVP Pro Beach
Volleyball Tour, winning 16 titles with partners Kevin Wong (two times),
Jake Gibb (four), Mike Lambert (nine) and Mark Williams (one).
In 2003, he and partner Dax Holdren won the silver medal at the Beach Volleyball World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
year later, he earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball team,
where he placed fifth in Athens with Holdren. Metzger also has two
international titles to his credit with Wong in 2001 and '02, as well as
a bronze medal at the '01 Goodwill Games.