Girls’ volleyball takes to the sand to compete in new beach league

Sachi Nahas

Redwood’s newly established girls’ beach volleyball team (Redwood Sand) gathered together at Piper Park Sun. March 4 to play in their first tournament against Branson, Convent and University High School. Comprised of a core group of regular season Redwood volleyball players (freshman to varsity levels), the new team is the only beach team in the Tam Union High School District and along with Branson, one of two from Marin.

Although the team doesn’t count as an official “Redwood sport,” since they don’t compete against other Tam District schools, they are able to play in the High School Sand League which states that all players on the team must be from, and represent one school from around the Bay Area.

Once word spread about the beach volleyball team, there were quite a few participants from Redwood’s indoor team who were interested in playing on the beach. There were no required tryouts, just the commitment from devoted players from the start of the season in February to the end in May.

“We needed a certain amount of players, but actually went beyond that minimum amount the coaches asked us for. We currently have 16 pairs of girls from freshman, sophomore and junior grades ready to play,” Head coach Chris Glave said.

Chris Glave has grown up playing volleyball his whole life and helped coach the Redwood girls’ junior varsity team this year. According to Glave, coaches at Branson and Golden Gate Beach Volleyball Club were looking to get another high school involved in the High School Sand League.

“We needed a certain amount of players, but actually went beyond that minimum amount the coaches asked us for. We currently have 16 pairs of girls from freshman, sophomore and junior grades ready to play,” Glave said.

In one match there are six girls playing or in other words, three groups of pairs. Only the top three seeds count for results of a complete match. At Piper Park, the girls came in second place to Branson, with a team final score of 6-3.

“There are always going to be tough matches, so it is exciting to see how the girls do. But teaching them the game, helping everyone get better as individuals and also as partners of the team, are my anticipations for the start of the season,” Glave said.

Agreeing with Glave, freshman Grace Mathews viewed the first tournament as a practice tournament, a time for the team to come and support each other playing and also get a feel for the sport and their competitors.

The team just started practicing last month so many of the girls on the team are still getting used to playing on a sand court and competing against just one partner pair. Junior Britney Klein plays setter position in indoor volleyball, meaning that during games her job is to primarily set the ball. Now that she is playing in beach, she not only has to play setter but also passer and hitter. Each individual player is overall a lot more accountable and involved with every play.

“Although I’ve been playing indoor volleyball for years, I thought beach would be a new experience for me to try out. I didn’t have time for club team anymore, but I still wanted another activity to keep me working out and beach definitely keeps me moving,” Klein said.

Although the girls play in pairs, the team tries to maintain the team dynamic of the sport. Unlike club beach volleyball, the Redwood team is in a high school league, so they do not divide the girls up based on age or grade, they play as one big team regardless. In this case, the girls are playing with many teammates they have never met or played with before.

“Practices are the biggest place to have people moving around. The girls are always with someone new, they can’t just be with their best friend and they can’t just be with the same person that they think they are going to win with all the time. We move everybody around, so they create support for each other no matter the ability of each individual,” Glave said.

According to Glave, the pairs are chosen based on who complements each other on the court. He matches all their strengths and weakness together. The teams must win two out of three sets in order to win the match, so he puts players together to set the team up for success.  

First time beach player, sophomore Annika Maher, has been playing both competitive travel and Redwood varsity indoor volleyball.

“The competitive dynamic is different in beach. We are representing one big team, but also split into pairs, so I try and cheer people on and build connection and support for everyone because I know if they are confident and improving we all have a better chance of winning as a team,” Maher said.

Beach volleyball is still up and coming in Northern California and most of Redwood’s competitors reside in the South Bay, East Bay and San Francisco. The team has a match on March 30 at Piper Park and their second tournament on April 22 (with location to be determined).