Volleyball serves up dual sport athletes

November 29, 2016

The Green Wave volleyball team closed out the season Friday, Nov. 25, with an 18-14 record. The team finished as the most improved team in the nation from the beginning of the season through the end.

For most volleyball players, wrapping up the season means taking a break, then focusing on building on their success next season. But for four members of the indoor volleyball team, their work is far from over.

Freshman Kaylie McHugh and seniors Sarah Strasner, Tea Juric and Annie Schurtz play on both the indoor and beach volleyball teams, meaning that their athletic commitments span over both fall and spring seasons. Strasner and Juric, in particular, have played on both teams since their freshman year, and have learned that being a two-sport collegiate athlete is a unique opportunity that comes with its benefits and challenges.

“[Being a two-sport athlete] is hectic and amazing,” Strasner said. “It’s been incredible because you get two teams and two families … It’s also cool being able to play two sports and not having an off season.”

These dual-sport athletes have pre-season indoor training in the summer and compete in indoor volleyball games the fall. They then train for beach volleyball in the winter and play games in the spring.

Intense training and competing in games year-round is challenging.

“There are definitely benefits and disadvantages to playing both seasons,” Juric said. “… Your body feels that you have no breaks.”

Beach and indoor volleyball are essentially the same game, yet some key differences between the two sports can be a strange adjustment for beginners. Beach volleyball is a two-person game, whereas indoor volleyball has six people working together on the court.

“Beach [volleyball] is only two players, so you don’t have that many people around you, and you need to take more responsibilities,” Juric said. “And then when you come back to indoor, there’s five people surrounding you, which is weird.”

Both sports have their complimenting strengths as well.

Getting to play volleyball in both the indoor and beach settings develops one’s skills and knowledge of the game in a unique way.

“Beach [volleyball] makes you a lot smarter of a player and puts you in shape …,” Strasner said. “… I think just mentally going year-round and working with different teams and partners [has] helped both ways.”

Head indoor volleyball coach Jim Barnes has noticed how his players that participate in indoor and beach volleyball have gained a unique amount of experience and skills that have influenced the indoor team’s success.

“Reading your opponents, anticipating things, the more you play and see those things; that’s called experience and experience is really big in our game,” Barnes said. “Sarah Strasner is a middle [hitter], but she can do a lot of different things other than just blocking hits, she can also pass and serve and play defense, so that brings some value to the team…”

Coming off the success of the 2016 fall indoor season, these four two-sport athletes are ready to bump, set and spike into beach volleyball, and have high hopes for success this spring. The beach volleyball team is already ranked in the top 20 in the country going into the season.

“…I’ve heard off season went really well,” Strasner said of the beach volleyball team’s preparation for the approaching season. “I just really want us to have a good year and make nationals.”

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