Call it what you want, beach volleyball or sand volleyball, it’s an exciting and growing sport and now 28 colleges and universities across American are playing it at the NCAA level.
One of those forward-thinking universities fielding a sand volleyball squad in 2013 is Georgia State, and they drew quite a crowd to their first home match ever, on Tuesday in Atlanta.
What made the day even better for the Panther faithful was a 3-2 win over instate rival Mercer.
You may be asking where is the beach in Downtown Atlanta that Georgia State is calling home?
The answer is the new Georgia State Sand Volleyball Complex, which was bursting at the seams on Tuesday as 1000 fans turned out to watch the “Sandy Panthers.”
“The crowd was outstanding,” Georgia State head coach Tami Audia said after the match.
The action was fast and furious.
Mercer started quickly against GSU by taking the No. 5 match (21-11 and 21-19) and also the No. 4 match (24-22 and 21-17). GSU would have to win the remaining three pairs to win the meet.
Things started getting back on track when GSU’s No. 1 team of Lane Carico and Katie Madewell got GSU in the win column worth a 21-16, 21-4 win to remain unbeaten on the season at 4-0.
GSU’s No. 3 of Kaitlynn Rawls and Milani Pickering cruised to a 22-20, 21-7 victory.
It then came down to court two. GSU’s No. 2 duo of Sara Olivova and Jansen Button came through with a close 21-16 win and then a march-winning 21-14 decision.
The real star of the match was the brand new facility in the heart of Downtown Atlanta. Three sand volleyball courts, palm trees, plenty of great seats and a great turnout of students made the 60 degree day in Atlanta perfect.
The sand was trucked in over the past few months, but the fans filled up the stands and wood boardwalk of the complex in about 45 minutes.
Hats off to Georgia State for making this another attraction in Downtown Atlanta and for prepping the courts after over an inch of rain on Monday.
“Facilities did a great job setting up and maintaining the courts all night, and the marketing people did a wonderful job of getting the word out and getting people to come,” said a thankful Audia.
You’ve heard the saying “a jewel in the desert”, well this is a desert jewel in Downtown Atlanta.
And after this win, the excitement will continue to build for this emerging and fan-friendly sport.
Rick Limpert covers events, sports and technology. He is based in Atlanta, you can follow him on Twitter at @RickRoswell.