Take It Outside?

The Southeastern Conference has become a force in the world of collegiate volleyball, and the league is in the process of helping spearhead an effort to add a spring sport to the schedule – this one involving sunscreen.

The NCAA is tinkering with the idea of including beach volleyball as a sanctioned sport in the near future. The SEC has 11 schools showing interest in the venture and even held a tournament this past spring to test the thought. Vanderbilt was the lone school not represented, as the Commodores don't compete in NCAA volleyball.

By rule, 10 schools have to fully commit before beach volleyball can be classified as an emerging sport. When 40 schools commit, NCAA sanctioning can occur.

"The idea is in its infancy, but it is definitely something to stay on top of," Ole Miss head coach Joe Getzin said. "I see pros and cons, and there are different kinks to be worked out. However, it is something we are interested in and will help push."

The present idea is to establish eligibility much like track – four years of indoor and four years of outdoor. Competitions would be held in tournament formats similar to golf. Schools would have more than one team competing since beach volleyball is two players per team, while indoor volleyball has six players on the court at once for each team.

To prepare for the 2008 SEC Coaches Beach Volleyball Championships in Gainesvile, Fla., Ole Miss practiced at the intramural courts on campus. Getzin was impressed with the outdoor area, although the sand was different than that used by the host Gators.

"The intramural fields provided a great place to practice and maybe later compete," Getzin said. "The sand here at Ole Miss is very deep and lends to a more defensive game. In Florida, it was thin sand that set up an offensive game. But I thought we performed well."

The SEC coaches flighted their different team members into four separate groups based on ability. Three doubles teams and one triple team competed for Ole Miss. Rebels Emily Jones and Rachel Kieckhaefer earned a third place finish in the most competitive flight, the Gold Division.

It was the first beach volleyball tournament to ever be held by a conference. The SEC is planning to conduct a conference call in two weeks to further discuss the endeavor.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss will attempt to earn its third straight NCAA Tournament berth when the volleyball team begins its 2008 season August 29 against UW-Milwaukee in Milwaukee.

"The beach tournament was a great way to keep the team in shape during the offseason," Getzin said.

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