April 11, 2008
AUBURN - The Auburn volleyball team will take the court as part of its spring training schedule this weekend as the team travels to Gainesville, Fla. for the first-ever SEC Coaches Beach Volleyball Championship. The tournament is the first ever collegiate beach volleyball championship held by members of a NCAA Division I Conference.
"The SEC coaches are trying to be on the cutting edge of bringing beach volleyball to the forefront in conjunction with the indoor game," said Auburn head coach Wade Benson. "We as head coaches felt that the sand game brings both great exposure to the game and it is a great teaching tool as an advancement of the indoor game as for as skills are concerned.
The championship is set up with teams from the SEC schools entering two-person teams with the option of also having a substitute. The team has added sand volleyball practice into its training schedule throughout the spring, working in different player rotations and matchups to decide the teams the Tigers would field this weekend.
"All of the girls are very excited about playing in the outdoors, they love the environment and it's a great workout," said Benson. "I think this is going to be a weekend that hopefully turns into great exposure for our team, the sport and the SEC. We feel like we will be able to represent Auburn well and we hope that this beginning will lead us to something special in the future."
Beach volleyball legend and three-time Olympic gold medalist Karch Kiraly opened the Championships on Friday night with a tournament-opening banquet. Kiraly retired from the AVP Tour in 2007 as the winningest player in beach volleyball history in terms of both tournaments and prize money, having won more than 150 events and claimed more than $3 million in earnings. A 2001 inductee into the Volleyball Hall of Fame, he is the only player to ever win Olympic gold medals both indoors and on the sand.
Competition will begin at 8:30 a.m. ET on Saturday morning with pool play, during which each team will play a minimum of four matches in one of four different levels. Each pool-play match will consist of two 21-point sets, and teams must win each set by at least two points. Based on pool play results, all teams will advance to playoffs within their respective levels. Playoffs will be single elimination with a one-set format, played to 21 points.
Auburn will field four teams in the tournament. The first team is made up of freshmen Sara Shanks and Milena Bukinac with the second team of junior Jessica Glover and freshman Nicki Gerig. Lauren Mellor, Emily Knuth and Alyssa Davis make up the third team while Briana Johnson, Kaitlin Simon and Rebecca Simon make up the fourth.
Admission to the event is free and will take place at the Southwestern Recreation Center in Gainesville, Fla. The event will feature both festival-style and bleacher seating for fans. Spectators are invited to bring umbrellas, chairs, coolers, etc. to the tournament.