FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Florida Gulf Coast University Athletic Department will be increasing to 15 sports with the addition of women’s sand volleyball as a varsity program, with competition commencing in the spring of 2012. FGCU becomes one of the latest schools to add sand volleyball as the sport gains NCAA championship status for the first time in 2012. FGCU will now feature nine women's and six men's intercollegiate teams.
“Sand volleyball will be an exciting addition to our sports menu, and it is an excellent fit for Florida Gulf Coast University Athletics,” said FGCU President Dr. Wilson Bradshaw.
Women's sand volleyball was recently recognized by NCAA Division I and II schools as an emerging sport for women, effective August 2011 for Division I programs. FGCU joins a growing group of over 20 programs that have plans to add the sport including four other Atlantic Sun Conference schools – Stetson, UNF, Mercer and Jacksonville – and national powers like USC, Stanford, Florida State, Arizona and UCLA. Sand volleyball will become a championship in the very near future after 40 schools nationally officially sponsor this emerging sport for women. Six A-Sun teams will be required for eligibility for an eventual automatic qualifier.
“Sand volleyball continues to grow in popularity throughout the nation, in particular, on the high school level in the state of Florida and regionally,” said FGCU Director of Athletics Ken Kavanagh. “We look forward to this program not only growing on its own, but in its ability to enhance our recruitment efforts in indoor volleyball for those young ladies looking for a destination to play both. Overall, we envision our abilities for this sport to join the many others that we sponsor and already compete on a championship level”
Indoor volleyball and sand volleyball will operate as a combined program, with FGCU indoor volleyball head coach Dave Nichols also serving as the sand volleyball head coach. There will be 12 players on the team and, in the beginning of the sand volleyball program development, the bulk of the players will be the members of the indoor volleyball team.
“Sand volleyball and FGCU are the perfect fit,” said Nichols. With our location, weather and the improvement of junior sand volleyball in the area we have a chance to put together an outstanding program. Athletes around the country are already contacting us, as our name and visibility continue to grow. These are exciting times for FGCU Volleyball.”
The Atlantic Sun Conference became the first NCAA conference to declare sand volleyball a championship sport on October 27 when the sport was officially approved for conference play. Jacksonville University will host the first A-Sun Sand Volleyball Championship on April 20-22, 2012.
The format of competition for sand volleyball is dual matches with five doubles teams and/or tournament style with multiple opponents. The first team to win two out of three sets wins. Sets 1 and 2 will be played to 21 points rally scoring with the third set to 15 points rally scoring.
The team will play the 2012 season locally either at Fort Myers Beach or surrounding venues with adequate amounts of sand courts. The University has practice facilities located adjacent to Alico Arena, the home venue of the FGCU indoor volleyball program.