The Southland Conference’s time on the sand has been relatively short.
The Univeristy of New Orleans was the first to spear-head the movement to beach volleyball in 2015.
Millicent Van Norden said, “We are super proud of being the first in the Southland Conference to host the sport of beach volleyball just a year before the NCAA adopted it so just going into our first championship season was very excited and we felt like we had a very vested team.”
A team that endured some growing pains. Working their way from an 0-24 record in their first seasons, to being voted into the top 25 rankings on several occasions, starting in 2018.
“Our first few seasons we actually used our indoor personnel for the beach program, we didn’t have separate scholarships,” said Van Norden. “The university invested in us and added some scholarships on the beach-only side so we have been able to grow the program with some really good athletes and our record reflects that.”
In 2020 the Privateers were off to one of their best starts in program history. A 7-3 record preparing to head to Houston for the Southland Roundup, then the season was cancelled.
Van Norden said, “We started off with just okay we are to going to go to Houston this weekend but we are going to have practice and its going to be okay, lets talk about the things that we need to do to keep each other safe and within 4 hours of that it was like no its over we are done.”
In Hammond, 2020 was supposed to be the inaugural season for Southeastern beach volleyball.
Unlike the Privateers, the Lions season was limited to its opening weekend. 3 games at the UNO Invitational held at Digs Volleyball Complex in Covington.
Jeremy White said, “It was tough. We had our beach-only kids in the fall put in a ton of work. Then we come in to the spring and kids work their tail off trying to get themselves into more of a beach shape in order to play in that element and all of a sudden you get one week to show what you got and that’s it.”
The Lions went o’fer in their debut, but coach White was impressed with what he saw from his programs first bit of action.
“I mean it was exciting. I thought our kids were a little bit nervous as anybody would be in their first event like that but I was really happy with how we competed,” said White. “The kids really enjoyed it and it was almost like a home sent for us with it being only 20 minutes away so a lot of our fans got to come out an and enjoy it. We were really exceed about the opportunity to jump out there early it just would have been nice to get a few more.”
With the NCAA granting the extra year of eligibility for spring athletes, Southeastern is in a prime position to grow the young group they had in 2020.
For more, click on the video above.