An MCC player rises to spike a shot in a game last season. (Photo by Dylan Kessler courtesy of the MCC Athletics Department)

Mesa Community College beach volleyball dives into their third season as a program

The Mesa Community College beach volleyball team looks to make strides in their third year in program history as their season begins on Feb. 10.

Jordan Herrington has taken over as head coach of the team after completing her first season as the indoor coach this past fall. Herrington has a large amount of experience in beach volleyball, going all the way back to her college days as a player.

Herrington transferred from New Mexico State to the University of Arizona to play beach volleyball, the only issue is just a few months before she was set to become a wildcat, she tore her ACL. 

After learning about the injury, University of Arizona beach volleyball coach Steve Walker still wanted Herrington to attend the school and be involved.

Due to the long road of recovery, all Herrington could do was sit and watch the game she loved. In doing so, she became a student of the game more than ever as she would pick the brain of Walker anytime she could. 

Herrington realized she wanted to coach the game, and after graduating college, she went to Estrella Foothills High School as the head beach volleyball coach and the assistant indoor coach. 

After her time at Estrella Foothills, Herrington would go to Benedictine University and have success in her first year, as the team would finish as the runner up in their conference. 

After seeing MCC was looking for a head coach in not just indoor, but also beach volleyball, Herrington was sold on becoming a Thunderbird.

Though beach volleyball and indoor volleyball may have similar objectives, the two sports are vastly different including playstyle, gameplan, and training.

 For starters, the court in beach volleyball is smaller than an indoor court due to the fact that in a beach volleyball game there are only two players on the court as opposed to six during an indoor contest. 

Though some training can be done on campus between weights and game plan strategy, beach volleyball is one of the few sports where being in the environment in which games are held is necessary to improve your game. 

Running and jumping in sand, for instance, can be very difficult if you do not do it very often. For volleyball players, who come from an indoor background translating their game to the beach, it can prove to be difficult at times.

In indoor volleyball, when a player wants to jump for the ball, they almost appear to be floating towards their target. They almost take a running jump, while in beach volleyball when one wants to jump for the ball, floating is not an option. 

Players must jump almost straight up in order to get as much air as possible due to the sand being an obstacle to overcome. 

In a lot of sports, the environment can be controlled, but when it comes to beach volleyball there is no way to dictate the weather you may be playing in. This can have a large impact on the game. You might be playing when it is 85 and sunny, and other times it might be 62 and cloudy. 

Wind and the direction of the sun are two factors that can alter the game. 

While on offense a team will have an advantage if they have the wind in their back as they don’t have to alter their approach significantly. You must account when the wind is in your face however as a gust can send your shot or pass in an undesired direction. 

Like a lot of other sports held outdoors, there are only a few circumstances that will prohibit a beach volleyball game from taking place. Wind, heat, or cold will not deter the game from taking place.

The team has been training for a little over a month, but with no sand pit for the team to practice with on campus, they have to travel to Gene Autry Park, which is nearly a 20 minute drive from the college campus. 

One of the main reasons why there are no practice facilities for the team on campus is due to the fact the sport has not taken off in the conference as well as it was anticipated. 

The thought when the program was created at MCC was that other schools would buy into the growing sport and would trigger a domino effect that would lead to multiple schools in the ACCAC with a team.

Unfortunately, as the sport enters its third year at MCC, other schools in the conference have not taken to the idea of adding beach volleyball to their list of sports. However, that has not stopped Herrington from advocating for other schools to take the plunge.

“I’m constantly advocating for beach volleyball at a lot of our meetings and talking to other schools about getting it,” said Herrington.

The team’s schedule this season is a mixture of two year schools from multiple states including Nebraska, California, and Texas along with Arizona. 

The reason MCC plays so many schools from out of state is simply because there aren’t enough two year schools in the state to play in order for them to qualify for the national tournament in April. 

The only conference games the Thunderbirds will play will be when they take on South Mountain Community College, which is the only other school in the ACCAC to have a beach volleyball program.

Herrington has big goals for the team, but also hopes to see her players seize the opportunity in the sand and be able to extend their time being a student athlete at a four year university.

“The end goal of course would be to make the national tournament, we have a good chance our girls are out there working hard everyday,” said Herrington, “to get the experience is important, eventually I’d love for these girls to take a liking to the sport and play on after. I think beach volleyball gives these girls an opportunity to move on and attend a four year school.”

The team kicks off their season on Feb. 10 against Arizona Christian University at Victory Lanes Sports Park in Glendale, AZ. Check out the rest of the teams schedule here.

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