International flavour on American collegiate beach volleyball scene

Since the start of “organized” Beach Volleyball competition in 2012 at colleges and universities in the United States, the popularity of sport continues to explode with the NCAA approving the activity as the 90th full-fledged championship sport to begin this May 6-8 in Gulf Shores, Ala.

With the “explosion” of Beach Volleyball on the American collegiate scene, the sport has an “international” flavor with 87 players from 25 countries on the 2015-2016 rosters of college and universities led by competitors from Canada (16 players), Brazil (11), Germany (9) and Serbia (8).


“The fact that 9% of the women playing college Beach Volleyball are foreign-born speaks to the uniqueness of this opportunity,” said American Volleyball Coaches Association Executive Director, Kathy DeBoer, who played an instrumental part in the development of the sport at American colleges and universities.  “Nowhere else in the world can you get a college degree while also pursuing excellence as a Beach Volleyball player.”

In coordination with USA Volleyball, the AVP and CBS Sports Network, AVCA started staging exhibition championships in 2006 with the first “Sand Volleyball” National Collegiate Championship being held in 2012.  Due to the AVCA and USA Volleyball’s involvement, the NCAA membership voted last October that Beach Volleyball would be its 90th full-fledged championship sport.  A total of 60 four-year colleges and universities in the United States are sponsoring Beach Volleyball teams during the 2015-2016 academic year along with 25 two-year schools.


“The entire Beach Volleyball world has been watching the evolution of NCAA sand volleyball with great anticipation and excitement,” said Lori Okimura, chair of the USA Volleyball Board of Directors.  “An entire nation of girls' volleyball players and coaches are turning to sand volleyball, inspired by the achievements of USA Volleyball Beach National Team athletes like three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings (Stanford University) and silver medalists April Ross and Jennifer Kessy (both from the University of Southern California), all of whom were successful NCAA student-athletes in volleyball before pursuing their professional beach careers.

Add Canada’s Sarah Pavan (University of Nebraska), France’s Alexandra Jupiter (USC) and Mexico’s Bibiana Candelas (USC) to that list as the development of collegiate Beach Volleyball in the United States has made remarkable strides.  Prior to the start the AVCA championships in 2012, the exhibition tournaments were won by Pavan (2007 with Jordan Larson) and Candelas (2006 with Paula Gentil) at events in San Diego and Reno, Nev., respectively.


Two-time American Olympian Todd Rogers, who captured the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with Phil Dalhausser, is in his first season as the head coach of Cal Poly.  Known as the "professor", Rogers said in February when he was hired at the San Luis Obispo school that he was really happy to be a part of Cal Poly Athletics and a volleyball program that's on the upswing.  I'm looking forward to challenging for a national title in a few years and what we're able to build from day one."

Other Olympic Beach Volleyball gold medal winners serving as volunteer assistants this season are American Dane Blanton (Sydney 2000 win Eric Fonoimoana) at No. 1-ranked USC and Brazilian Jackie Silva (Atlanta 1996 with Sandra Pires) at No. 10-ranked Florida International.  Three-time American indoor Olympian Tayyiba Haneef-Park is an assistant coach at No. 7-ranked Arizona.

“I’ve been struck by the ‘Who’s Who’ that has been at the AVCA National Championships the last few years in coaching role,” said DeBoer, who has headed the collegiate group since 2006.  “It’s pretty cool to see Olympic gold medal winners Dain and Jackie warming up college beach players!”

Misty May-Treanor, who captured three Olympic gold medals with Walsh Jennings in Athens, Beijing and London, is a familiar figure around the collegiate Beach Volleyball scene in southern California.  She has served as a volunteer coach at both Long Beach State (2012) and USC (2013).


Headlining the “international invasion” on college and university campuses this spring are identical Canadian twins Nicole and Megan McNamara of Vancouver, British Columbia.  Entering this week’s event, the McNamaras have played every match for the No. 4-ranked UCLA Bruins, who are coached by American Beach Volleyball Olympian Stein Metzger.

A week after the NCAA Championships in Alabama where the Canadian twins are expected to participate, the McNamaras will travel to Europe to compete for Canada in the 2016 FIVB under-21 World Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland.  The McNamaras won the silver medal at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China after placing third at the 2014 FIVB under-19 World Championships in Porto, Portugal.


Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa and Ana Patricia Silva of Brazil, who posted a 2-1 (17-21, 21-13, 16-14) Nanjing gold medal win in 42 minutes over the McNamaras, will be the favored team in Lucerne at the FIVB under-21 finale where the top American team will be Sarah Sponcil and Torrey Van Winden.

Sponcil, who is on the Beach Volleyball roster at Loyola Marymount where she is coached by FIVB World Tour participate John Mayer, and Van Winden captured the gold medal last month the Four Nations under-21 tournament on Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia.  The Americans posted a 2-1 (21-23, 21-19, 15-13) gold medal victory against Brazil's Victoria Tosta and Ana Patricia.  Van Winden is scheduled to play next year at UCLA with the McNamaras.

An unlikely pair competing together for the United States in the qualifier at the 2016 FIVB under-21 World Championships will be cross-town collegiate rivals Abril Bustamante of USC (playing with Jenna Belton) and Susannah Muno of UCLA (playing with Australian import Jessyka Ngauamo)

Known as Zuno Muno at UCLA, she placed fifth at both the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games (with Skylar Caputo now playing at Pepperdine) and the 2014 FIVB under-19 World Championships in Portugal (with Crissy Jones now playing at Washington).

Bustamante was featured earlier this week in an article on the prestigous USC Annenberg Media web site stating that she had "made a significant contribution to the Trojan beach volleyball program" despite being a freshman (


One of the 88 foreign players competing collegiately this spring in the United States is Giulia Gavio freshman from Rio de Janeiro.  Her father Giovane will be the Beach Volleyball competition director at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and was a standout on the FIVB World Tour in the late 1990s where he missed qualifying for the Sydney Summer Games with Tande Ramos.

Giovane was a two-time indoor Volleyball gold medalist for Brazil at the Barcelona 1992 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games.  On Thursday in Greece, Giovane was given the honor of being the first Brazilian to run with the Olympic Torch as part of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Torch Relay.

Mike Dodd, the Beach Volleyball silver medal winner at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, has daughters competing in Beach Volleyball at Florida International (Dominique) and Saint Mary’s College (Dalas) in northern California.


Canadian Sophie Bukovec, who captured the 2014 FIVB under-21 world championship with Tiadora Minic, is one of the top collegiate players for No. 1-ranked Southern California.  Bukovec and current partner Alexa Strange have a 19-6 match mark this season as the No. 2 USC pair behind undefeated Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, who played third together at the 2014 FIVB U21 worlds.  Strange was ninth at the 2014 u21 event in Cyprus with Delaney Knudsen.

OR (Orellana’s Recovery)

Guatemala’s Mandi Orellana is playing her second season at LSU after recovering from a torn ACL in her left knee suffered at the 2015 Beach Volleyball FIVB World Championships in The Hague.  In a newspaper interview, Orellana said despite the incredible experience of playing in the world championships, she was overwhelmed.

“We weren’t used to everything, like having cameras around you and all the crowd and music,” said Orellana.  “It is an honor to be able to represent a country and mostly in the world championships and having the opportunity to play with my sister (Maria J) it’s the best feeling ever, I don’t have words to explain it.  It was overwhelming, but it was fun and different.”

After losing her first match against a Canadian team, Orellana’s world championships experience ended in the 24th minute of a match against a tandem from Kazakhstan.  As she jumped toward the ball, Orellana landed awkwardly and torn her ACL.  The injury also forced Orellana to withdraw from the 2015 Pan American Games with her sister in Toronto.  

Foreign Players playing collegiate Beach Volleyball in the United States

Australia (two players at two schools)
Saint Mary’s - Agnieszka Kudziela (freshman from Brisbane)
UCLA - Jessyka Ngauamo (junior from Gold Coast, Queensland)

Austria (one player at one school)
Spring Hill College (DII) - Dorina Klinger (freshman from Frauental)

Brazil (11 players at eight schools)
Cal State Bakersfield - Carol Grasso (junior from Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Eckerd College (DII) - Gabriella Reis (sophomore from Rio de Janeiro)
Florida Gulf Coast - Vanessa Benke (senior from Toledo)
Jacksonville - Mayara Prestes (senior from Porto Alegre)
Lincoln Memorial (DII) - Fernanda Miaci (senior from Sao Jose dos Campos)
New Orleans - Camila Lau (sophomore from Porto Alegre, Brazil)
San Jose State - Luiza Andrade (freshman from Rio de Janeiro), Giulia Gavio (freshman from Rio de Janeiro), Nandyala Gama (sophomore from Rio de Janeiro) and Mariana Mantellato (freshman from Sao Paulo)
Webber (NAIA) - Daniela Melo (senior from Campo Bom)

Canada (16 players at 14 schools)
Arizona State - Whitney Follette (junior from St. Albert, Alberta)
Coastal Carolina - Tahleia Bishop (senior from Whitby, Ontario)
College of Charleston - Maddie Hills (junior from Toronto, Ontario)
Florida International - Katie Friesen (freshman from Niverville, Manitoba)
Hawai'i - Emily Maglio (freshman from Coquitlam, British Columbia)
Louisiana Monroe - Claire Crossfield (sophomore from Calgary)
Loyola Marymount - Sara Kovac (freshman from Niagara Falls, Ontario)
New Orleans - Brooklyn Frank (junior Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) and Shaylene Reimer (freshman from Surrey, British Columbia)
Saint Mary’s - Sarah Chase (freshman from Campbell River, British Columbia)
Santa Clara - Natasha Calkins (sophomore from Calgary, Alberta)
Stanford - Tami Alade (freshman from Sherwood Park, Alberta)
UAB - Michaela Reesor (graduate student from Caledon, Ontario)
UCLA - Megan and Nicole McNamara (freshmen from Vancouver, British Columbia)
USC - Sophie Bukovec (junior from Toronto, Ontario)

Chile (one player at one school)
Cabrillo College (junior college) - Marcela Frazzoni (freshman from Santiago)

Croatia (five players at four schools)
Coastal Carolina - Dora Lulic (freshman from Osijek)
Long Beach State - Doris Bogoje (freshman from Dubrovnik, Croatia)
San Francisco - Jurja Vlasic (senior from Zagreb) and Katarina Pilepic (junior from Novi Vinodolski)
Tulane - Tea Juric (junior from Kastel Stari)

Cyprus (one player at one school)
Long Beach State - Zoi Konstantopoulou (freshman from Limassol, Cyprus)

Czech Republic (three players at three schools)
San Jose State - Hana Tresnakova (freshman from Prague)
Stetson - Vendy Strakova (graduate student from Brno)
Webber (NAIA) - Sandra Skarkova (junior from Brno)

England (one player at one school)
Missouri Baptist (NAIA) - Hannah Carey (senior from West Sussex)

France (four players at four schools)
Missouri Baptist (NAIA) - Marion Couraud (junior from Tourrettes sur du Loup)
North Florida - Ambre Desaulnay (senior from Villeneuve-Loubet)
Pacific - Anne-Sophie Bauer (junior from Pfastatt)
Webber (NAIA) - Sophie Rossard (freshman from Toulouse)

Germany (nine players at nine schools)
Florida Gulf Coast - Marlene Moeller (junior from Ludinghausen)
Georgia State - Nina Interwies (junior from Gammelby)
Hawai'i - Lara Schreiber (sophomore from Freiburg)
Jacksonville State - Charis Ludtke (sophomore from Hamburg)
Long Beach State - Nele Barber (sophomore from Berlin)
New Orleans - Cara Sander (sophomore from Wiesbaden)
San Francisco - Sara Staengle (senior from Sindelfingen)
San Jose State - Julia Menhart (graduate student from Munich)
Stanford - Ivana Vanjak (sophomore from Bad Soden)

Guatemala (four players at three schools)
Florida International - Natalia Giron (sophomore from Guatemala City) and Estefanie Bethancourt (sophomore from Guatemala City), 11-7 match record,
LSU - Mandi Orellana (sophomore from Guatemala City)
Mercer - Marina Chavez (sophomore from Guatemala City)

Italy (two players at two schools)
Florida International - Gloria Levorin (senior Padova Italy)
San Diego Mesa College (junior college) - Flavia Virgili (Rome)

Latvia (one player at one school)
Coastal Carolina - Alise Petersone (freshman from Riga, Latvia)

Mexico (three players at three school)
Cal State Bakersfield - Jocelyn Rodriguez (junior from Mexicali)
Grossmont College (junior college) - Alejandra Puga (freshman from Tijuana, Mexico)
Jacksonville - Ana Gabriella Nieto-Gomez (senior from Zapapan, Mexico)

Montenegro (two players at two schools)
Coastal Carolina - Iva Mandic (freshman from Podgorica, Montenegro)
Los Angeles Pierce College (junior college) - Valentina Krivokapic (freshman from Krotor)

New Zealand (one player at one school)
Arizona - Olivia Macdonald (sophomore from Hamilton)

Norway (three players at three schools)
Florida State - Cecilie Woie, sophomore from Alsvag)
New Mexico - Lise Rugland (junior from Tananger)
Stetson - Julie Varga (freshman from Fredrikstad)

Poland (three players at three schools)
Florida International - Martyna Gluchowicz (graduate student from Kryzanowice)
Grand Canyon - Aleksandra Wachowicz (senior from Legionowo)
Pacific - Alicja Wilk (junior from Trzebownisko)

Puerto Rico (two players at two schools)
Florida International - Lina Bernier (freshman from San Juan)
Florida State - Eva Torruella (freshman from San Juan)
Jacksonville - Jizzyan Gesualdo (junior from Ponce)

Romania (one player at one school)
Los Angeles Pierce College (junior college) - Anamaria Stanciu (freshman)

Serbia (eight player at seven schools)
Arizona - Sara Pantovic (freshman from Kikinda)
Cal State Northridge - Nada Dragovic (sophomore from Belgrade)
Coastal Carolina - Aleksandra Djuric (junior from Belgrade) and Natasa Savovic (junior from Belgrade)
Missouri Baptist (NAIA) - Kristina Medanovic (sophomore from Kraljevo)
New Orleans - Milica Zmiric (senior from Sombor)
North Florida - Katarina Raicevic (junior from Belgrade)
Portland - Djurdjina Milovic (junior from Lazarevac)

Slovenia (one player at one school)
Eckerd College (DII) - Tjasa Kotnik (senior from Ljubljana)

Sweden (one player at one school)
Stetson - Kristin Lind (junior from Tierp)

Switzerland (one player at one school)
Florida International - Anabela Sataric (junior from Biberist)


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