Emmy Allen and McKayla Ferris

Emmy Allen (left) and McKayla Ferris (right) plan to extend their careers through sand volleyball. 

First-year head coach Diane Nelson took the reins of the Gonzaga volleyball team in May, and one of the offseason programs she encouraged her players to partake in was sand volleyball. 

After back-to-back winning seasons, the team is going for its third winning season in a row for the first time since 1988-1990.

Nelson herself first played sand volleyball after college while she was coaching and she instantly noticed the difference in her reactions.  

“My ability to read, see and react faster to the ball [was better],” she said. “And it changed my court vision tremendously.”

She wanted her team to continue to practice and play volleyball in an environment where they could improve many aspects of their games while also having a good time doing so. 

Sand volleyball in the NCAA has two players on a team. So because there are only two players instead of six, there is more action.

“You get maximum touches. You have to see the whole game and be both offense and defense,” Nelson said. 

The whole team was given the suggestion to play sand, but only about a half dozen or so took the advice to heart.

A few players stayed local to play, but in the case of seniors McKayla Ferris and Emmy Allen, they were able to take a different route.

California bound

The duo first played in a few Association of Volleyball Professionals or AVP Next tournaments, one being in Snohomish, Washington. They finished second in the Northwest Zone, which was played on June 11 in Willis Tucker Park, and from there a special opportunity arose.

“We went down to California and played a couple really good teams including one from Canada which we beat and then a couple USA A2 and A1 teams,” Allen said. 

A1 and A2 are classification levels of programs run by USA Volleyball, the national governing body for the sport of volleyball in the United States. 

A2 is the National Invitation Team Program and A1 is the top level of programming and these players are in top consideration for a spot in the Junior National Team the next year, according to USA Volleyball’s website. 

“A1 teams are the best college players in the nation,” Ferris said. “Obviously we didn’t win, but it was a good experience.” 

Pros (and slight cons) 

of the sand experience

Allen and Ferris took Nelson’s advice and in turn, their play has improved more than it would had they practiced on the hardwood, Nelson said.

Last week, the Zags faced off against No. 5 San Diego and No. 11 BYU in consecutive games, but even with the underdog status, both players came into the game with a different mindset.

“Emmy and I played against 35- and 40-year-olds who have been professionals for 25 years and we’re not intimidated by anyone across the net,” Ferris said. 

Sand is more beneficial physically because it is easier on the body, yet it takes more conditioning and it helps more mentally because it allows players to play all positions while also being their own coach.

“They were more self-directed, they had no coach, which is really a great way for athletes to develop,” Nelson said. “It’s hands down the best training you could possibly do.”

This season, Nelson has taken the same approach to her coaching style.

“The way Diane (Nelson) runs this program, she gives us a lot of freedom to just play and just laying back and letting us work through things on our own. It is a combination of sand and Diane’s coaching,” Allen said.

In California, Allen and Ferris had to utilize their own coaching to succeed. The responsibility of being prepared for each match, the in-game adjustments and the normal duties of a coach are all part of the game. Self-accountability was at a premium because the mistakes fell on each other.  

Having only two players essentially play six positions builds complete volleyball players. 

“We have this saying that we want to become better volleyball players, so a lot of the time we get caught up in our positions and what skill that uses, but in sand you use all skills,” Allen said. 

The transition back into a six-person team was the most difficult part. Ferris and Allen were used to roaming the whole playing surface, but on the hardwood, each player has an area where they are supposed to be on any given play or situation. 

“Your mind is about covering more court,” Nelson said. “With six players, you cover a smaller area and it actually can be more of a challenge to just get back inside of your box.”

The other challenge is the sand court itself. 

It is about a foot and a half smaller on each side and the obvious difference between the two is the hardwood and the sand specifically. So the adjustments to jumping and reading the play have to be made. 

“In sand you sink a lot so your vertical is a lot lower and you have to figure out how to make shots you have never made before,” Allen said. 

The change’s positive impact came when the team returned to campus for practice in mid-August. They felt faster, they felt their verticals improved and they felt they could hit with more accuracy.

“Sand is actually really difficult to move in so coming back to the court seemed super, super easy,” Ferris said.

Allen also felt more athletic on the hardwood and felt her ability to utilize the whole court improved as well. 

“You feel like you’re jumping higher and you have this whole court to swing because in sand, the court is smaller too,” Allen said. 

What’s next

For Ferris and Allen, their minds have been made up for what they want to do after their tenure at Gonzaga is up.

“Both of us want to play our fifth years,” Ferris said.

The reference to the fifth year has to do with NCAA eligibility. NCAA student athletes have five  calendar years of eligibility to play four seasons of competition. The clock starts when the student enrolls full time. 

Both Allen and Ferris have time remaining on their clocks. They are planning to play their fifth years at other colleges that offer sand volleyball. 

Allen specifically has already picked her school after graduating from GU, while Ferris is still in her planning stages. 

“I am actually committed to play for LSU, so this December I will graduate and my indoor eligibility will be up, but I will have two seasons at LSU to play sand,” Allen said.  

Even though Ferris wants to play sand after her graduation, the selection has to be right. 

“Sand is definitely my passion, but financially it has to be the right option,” she said. “I’m looking for an opportunity just to carry on with volleyball because I love it so much.”

Taking the sand volleyball path is the next step for college players after they finish their time on the court. After four years on the court, players either have to go overseas and play or play sand at a school that offers it. The only issue is finding a school. 

Only 53 schools have NCAA eligibility in sand volleyball. The first NCAA beach volleyball championship was this year and USC took the inaugural crown over Florida State (3-0).

It was the first time either one of them played organized, competitive beach volleyball. Ferris dabbled a bit in past years and Allen played for fun, but she didn’t really understand the rules. After being fully engulfed in the game, it cemented their future plans. 

Aside from the game itself, they were able to grow as teammates and friends. 

“Just getting to spend that week with McKayla and whether we were winning or getting our butts kicked, going through all of that together just bonded us a lot,” Allen said. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: 

First-year head coach Diane Nelson took the reins of the Gonzaga volleyball team in May, and one of the offseason programs she encouraged her players to partake in was sand volleyball. 

After back-to-back winning seasons, the team is going for its third winning season in a row for the first time since 1988-1990.

Nelson herself first played sand volleyball after college while she was coaching and she instantly noticed the difference in her reactions.  

“My ability to read, see and react faster to the ball [was better],” she said. “And it changed my court vision tremendously.”

She wanted her team to continue to practice and play volleyball in an environment where they could improve many aspects of their games while also having a good time doing so. 

Sand volleyball in the NCAA has two players on a team. So because there are only two players instead of six, there is more action.

“You get maximum touches. You have to see the whole game and be both offense and defense,” Nelson said. 

The whole team was given the suggestion to play sand, but only about a half dozen or so took the advice to heart.

A few players stayed local to play, but in the case of seniors McKayla Ferris and Emmy Allen, they were able to take a different route.

California bound

The duo first played in a few Association of Volleyball Professionals or AVP Next tournaments, one being in Snohomish, Washington. They finished second in the Northwest Zone, which was played on June 11 in Willis Tucker Park, and from there a special opportunity arose.

“We went down to California and played a couple really good teams including one from Canada which we beat and then a couple USA A2 and A1 teams,” Allen said. 

A1 and A2 are classification levels of programs run by USA Volleyball, the national governing body for the sport of volleyball in the United States. 

A2 is the National Invitation Team Program and A1 is the top level of programming and these players are in top consideration for a spot in the Junior National Team the next year, according to USA Volleyball’s website. 

“A1 teams are the best college players in the nation,” Ferris said. “Obviously we didn’t win, but it was a good experience.” 

Pros (and slight cons) 

of the sand experience

Allen and Ferris took Nelson’s advice and in turn, their play has improved more than it would had they practiced on the hardwood, Nelson said.

Last week, the Zags faced off against No. 5 San Diego and No. 11 BYU in consecutive games, but even with the underdog status, both players came into the game with a different mindset.

“Emmy and I played against 35- and 40-year-olds who have been professionals for 25 years and we’re not intimidated by anyone across the net,” Ferris said. 

Sand is more beneficial physically because it is easier on the body, yet it takes more conditioning and it helps more mentally because it allows players to play all positions while also being their own coach.

“They were more self-directed, they had no coach, which is really a great way for athletes to develop,” Nelson said. “It’s hands down the best training you could possibly do.”

This season, Nelson has taken the same approach to her coaching style.

“The way Diane (Nelson) runs this program, she gives us a lot of freedom to just play and just laying back and letting us work through things on our own. It is a combination of sand and Diane’s coaching,” Allen said.

In California, Allen and Ferris had to utilize their own coaching to succeed. The responsibility of being prepared for each match, the in-game adjustments and the normal duties of a coach are all part of the game. Self-accountability was at a premium because the mistakes fell on each other.  

Having only two players essentially play six positions builds complete volleyball players. 

“We have this saying that we want to become better volleyball players, so a lot of the time we get caught up in our positions and what skill that uses, but in sand you use all skills,” Allen said. 

The transition back into a six-person team was the most difficult part. Ferris and Allen were used to roaming the whole playing surface, but on the hardwood, each player has an area where they are supposed to be on any given play or situation. 

“Your mind is about covering more court,” Nelson said. “With six players, you cover a smaller area and it actually can be more of a challenge to just get back inside of your box.”

The other challenge is the sand court itself. 

It is about a foot and a half smaller on each side and the obvious difference between the two is the hardwood and the sand specifically. So the adjustments to jumping and reading the play have to be made. 

“In sand you sink a lot so your vertical is a lot lower and you have to figure out how to make shots you have never made before,” Allen said. 

The change’s positive impact came when the team returned to campus for practice in mid-August. They felt faster, they felt their verticals improved and they felt they could hit with more accuracy.

“Sand is actually really difficult to move in so coming back to the court seemed super, super easy,” Ferris said.

Allen also felt more athletic on the hardwood and felt her ability to utilize the whole court improved as well. 

“You feel like you’re jumping higher and you have this whole court to swing because in sand, the court is smaller too,” Allen said. 

What’s next

For Ferris and Allen, their minds have been made up for what they want to do after their tenure at Gonzaga is up.

“Both of us want to play our fifth years,” Ferris said.

The reference to the fifth year has to do with NCAA eligibility. NCAA student athletes have five  calendar years of eligibility to play four seasons of competition. The clock starts when the student enrolls full time. 

Both Allen and Ferris have time remaining on their clocks. They are planning to play their fifth years at other colleges that offer sand volleyball. 

Allen specifically has already picked her school after graduating from GU, while Ferris is still in her planning stages. 

“I am actually committed to play for LSU, so this December I will graduate and my indoor eligibility will be up, but I will have two seasons at LSU to play sand,” Allen said.  

Even though Ferris wants to play sand after her graduation, the selection has to be right. 

“Sand is definitely my passion, but financially it has to be the right option,” she said. “I’m looking for an opportunity just to carry on with volleyball because I love it so much.”

Taking the sand volleyball path is the next step for college players after they finish their time on the court. After four years on the court, players either have to go overseas and play or play sand at a school that offers it. The only issue is finding a school. 

Only 53 schools have NCAA eligibility in sand volleyball. The first NCAA beach volleyball championship was this year and USC took the inaugural crown over Florida State (3-0).

It was the first time either one of them played organized, competitive beach volleyball. Ferris dabbled a bit in past years and Allen played for fun, but she didn’t really understand the rules. After being fully engulfed in the game, it cemented their future plans. 

Aside from the game itself, they were able to grow as teammates and friends. 

“Just getting to spend that week with McKayla and whether we were winning or getting our butts kicked, going through all of that together just bonded us a lot,” Allen said. 

 Follow the writer on Twitter: @justinreed99.

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(2) comments

Suzassell

She is looking pretty and desire you the eye shade of her eyes. She is making some http://mediamprovider.us burden in the class and when her teacher saw to making the bother in the class. She asked her a request which answer she not know and their educator is irritating before the class.

multumesc

I've been playing volleyball for 4 years now. Ending my senior year in high school and soon entering college on a full ride. That pretty much boosted my self-esteem. But if you aren't as serious about the sport as I am, it is a great way to meet new people and stay in shape. The difference between volleyball at north carolina beach houses for rent and other sports is that it forces you to move. If you don't move fast enough, the ball will fly out of your hands, won't get a good pass, or completely miss the ball when you hit. there's a ton of movement which includes dives and jumps. You work out practically every muscle in your body because of all the movement you are forced to do. Mentally, you get motivation to win. That also transitions off the court, and can actually help kids do better in school. It did for me. Anyway, it helps you want to do better and be at your best.

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