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10 May 2013

Sand Volleyball: Mixing it up in the sand

Sand Volleyball: Mixing it up in the sand

Written by: Mike Sciacca

Zoran Forgiarini and Suzy Mathieson held first serve, with hopes that others would follow.

Forgiarini, the surfing and frosh/soph football coach at Edison High, and Mathieson, who coached girls' junior varsity volleyball, varsity softball and JV golf for the Chargers, learned last year of a girls' prep sand (beach) club volleyball league. The two coaches teamed to create the club sport of girls' sand volleyball at Edison, forming it with a roster of 15 players.

The Chargers, many of whom played indoor girls' volleyball during the fall 2012 CIF Southern Section season, then went to work on fundamentals and figuring out their two-player teams format during workouts at Newland Street at Huntington State Beach. The twice-a-week practices helped prepare the Chargers for their inaugural season in the Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League, which was formed through the Southern Pacific Volleyball Committee and Amateur Athletic Union.

"We were excited to get things started, and the girls have had a blast," Forgiarini said. "It's hard to believe that we are near the end of our first season already."

The 2013 IBVL started with match competition on March 16 and the five-week regular season concluded on April 20. Edison wasn't the only local school to put a club team in the league. Huntington Beach High also competed in its maiden year in the league, and the Chargers and Oilers are part of the Orange Division of the Southern Conference that also includes Saddleback Valley Christian, Foothill and El Camino Real.

Both Huntington and Edison have qualified for the postseason playoffs, the Oilers, by winning the Orange Division with a 10-0 record, the Chargers, by virtue of a 5-5 finish that earned them third place.

The IBVL is played during the spring sports season. The league has grown from its eight-team season last year, to include 30 teams, both varsity and junior varsity level squads. The charter schools are Valencia Valencia, Mira Costa, Harvard-Westlake, Palos Verdes, Marymount, El Segundo and Marlborough from the CIF Southern Section, and Carson from the CIF Los Angeles City Section.

The league is divided into six divisions composed of five schools each, and includes schools from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange counties.

The 2013 season is the first to include Orange County schools. Sage Hill, the fifth Orange County school in the league, competes in the Coastal Division of the Northern Conference.

"We're hoping to get more [Orange] county schools on board," Forgiarini said.

"We started this program the same time [2012] that sand volleyball became an NCAA sport," said Gino Grajeda, commissioner of the IBVL and of AAU beach volleyball nationwide. "The popularity of sand volleyball has grown, and our league has grown this year to include teams from Orange County. I think more will follow."

Edison and Huntington played matches each Saturday throughout the regular season at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey. In each match, each school fielded three, two-player teams that competed simultaneously on three separate courts. The school that won two of three matches, earned the victory.

Stacey Asis is one of 15 players on the Edison roster. The sophomore, who plays opposite, was a member of Edison's junior varsity indoor team during the 2012 CIF Southern Section fall season. Asis said she hadn't played much beach volleyball, but said the challenge of the new sport, has been worthwhile.

"I love playing indoor volleyball and I'm also enjoying playing on the sand," Asis said. "It's a completely different game from indoor. I think the biggest challenge has been moving around in the sand. It really works you, in a different way. It's been fun and exciting."

The 2013 club sand volleyball league season is at the postseason stage, with the three-day playoff schedule opening Thursday with wild-card matches. The top three schools in each division qualify for the playoffs in addition to two other teams receiving at-large berths.

Edison will face Oxnard, the No. 3 team from the Coastal Division, in a wild-card match at 5 p.m. Thursday at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica.

"I think the girls are ready," Mathieson said. "They have learned a lot throughout the course of the season. They are getting better at their shots and are much better making rallies last. Some of these girls haven't played much sand volleyball, so the season has been a learning curve."

The top four seeds, defending tournament champion Valencia Valencia, last year's runner-up and No. 2-seed, Mira Costa, No. 3 Huntington, and No. 4 San Marcos, play first-round matches Friday. The top four seeds each went undefeated (10-0) during the regular season.

Valencia (Mountain Division No. 1, Northern Conference) will face the Edison-Oxnard winner at 5 p.m., and Huntington takes on the winner of the wild-card match Thursday between Notre Dame (Mountain No. 3) and West Torrance JV (Westside Division No. 3, Southern Conference), also at 5 p.m. Both matches Friday are at Dockweiler State Beach.

"Super proud of the way the girls have performed on the sand this spring," said Craig Pazanti, head coach of the Huntington Beach boys' and girls' indoor volleyball programs. "We have so many girls that play on the beach, anyway, it seemed like a great fit for us. However, a lot of the credit for getting the girls involved needs to go to Bob Hall, and the rest of our booster club. He, specifically, has put in a lot of time to get this rolling for us. Especially with the boys' [indoor] season being in full swing, I really needed some help to make this happen."

The tournament quarterfinals, semifinals and final, are Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at Annenberg Community Beach House.

The following week, the IBVL pairs championships will be held May 18 at Dockweiler State Beach.

"We're stoked that it worked out, and that we got through the season," Forgiarini said. "The girls have had a blast and hopefully we get more Orange County schools involved next year. That's our goal. It would be great to be able to play games in Orange County in the future."


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