Beach volleyball added for Spring 2022

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

The Eastern volleyball team will start spending its spring semesters on the beach starting next semester.
It was announced back on Aug. 6 that a beach volleyball program would be added to Eastern athletics, making Eastern the fourth OVC program and first Division I school in Illinois to offer a beach volleyball team.
Eastern athletic director Tom Michael said that the program was added to help the court volleyball team play at a competitive level within the conference.
“If we felt that our court team was at a disadvantage because other OVC schools were playing beach in the spring which would help their court team in the fall, then we would have the conversation about whether or not we should add (beach volleyball), and the success that Morehead State, Austin Peay and UT Martin have had on the court in the fall, they’re the three institutions that have had beach,” Michael said. “I don’t know that that’s the only reason, but it’s certainly a reason why I think some of their success on the court in the fall has been there.”
The addition of beach volleyball also made financial sense for Eastern, Michael said.
Manolo Concepcion, the associate head coach of the volleyball team, will serve as the head coach of the beach program and head volleyball coach Sara Thomas will serve as the beach volleyball assistant coach.
Since the players from the court team will also make up the beach roster, no additional scholarships will need to be added.
Michael also said that money the school will receive from the NCAA for adding another sport will cover the expenses for the program.
Since only two players are in the game for a team in beach volleyball, all players need to be able to successfully perform multiple things both offensively and defensively, as opposed to regular volleyball where some players have specific tasks.
Because of the way beach volleyball is played, Concepcion said there is an opportunity for the court players expand their skillsets.
“Skill development I think is something that, because the game has changed much, especially at the mid-major level where there’s a lot of specialization, this opportunity allows for all-around skill development,” he said.
He also said that he is looking forward to coaching the beach team, since his experience with beach volleyball ties back to his roots in Puerto Rico, where it was the dominant kind of volleyball he was surrounded by.
“Coming from Puerto Rico, that’s the kind of sport we grew up with,” he said. “Some of my biggest idols actually started on the beach. Because of that, we get an opportunity to actually see them train, see them develop, see them have an opportunity to of how that translates to their indoor careers. That was one of the first things that attracted us.”
Thomas said that being the only Division I volleyball program in the state that offers both indoor and beach volleyball can also be beneficial when it comes to recruitment.
“I think that absolutely (it will help recruiting), especially for the region and our university to give more opportunities to young women,” she said.
With the beach season still on the horizon, the Eastern indoor volleyball team will open its regular season this weekend, hosting the EIU Panther Invitational with matches scheduled against IUPUI on Aug, 27 and matches with Bellarmine and Chicago State Aug. 28.

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]