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Beach V-ball trending up in SCV

Posted: April 8, 2014 10:06 p.m.
Updated: April 8, 2014 10:06 p.m.

Members of the 2014 Valencia High beach volleyball team pose at West Beach in Santa Barbara. This is the third year Valencia is fielding a beach volleyball team. Photo courtesy of Deena Uythoven.

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This beach volleyball thing is really catching on in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Valencia High School was among the first schools in the state to join a startup girls volleyball beach league in 2012.

What started as an eight-team league two years ago has blossomed into 47 varsity teams and another 15 at the junior varsity level.

And that list includes a second Santa Clarita Valley team for the first time this season — Trinity Classical Academy.

“There are a lot of players out here that are getting interested and wanting to play sand volleyball, as you’d expect with the college scene ramping up,” said Valencia beach volleyball head coach Mark Knudsen.

The term “sand” is used when describing college volleyball because not every school is located on the coast.

It was also in 2012 when colleges first began offering scholarship money in sand volleyball. In 2013, a total of 27 colleges across the country fielded NCAA Division I teams.

Two Valencia High graduates have already taken advantage of the newly sanctioned sport with Delaney Knudsen playing for Pepperdine University and Sierra Sanchez at Florida State.

There could be more on the way with Valencia’s latest beach team sitting at 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League, which is part of an Amateur Athletic Union.

“It seriously is the best thing that we all do. We all love it so much,” said Valencia junior Emily Bible. “It’s a completely different sport than indoor. It’s honestly the highlight of my week is when I get to play sand volleyball.”

Like most players on Valencia’s beach team, Bible is also a varsity player for Valencia’s indoor team that plays in the fall.

She is part of Valencia’s No. 1 beach pairing along with junior teammate Lindsey Knudsen, who was the All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year for the fall indoor season.

The Valencia team also includes Kaity Uythoven, Rachel Perez, Savi Carroll as well as two players from the JV indoor team, Kelsey Knudsen and Megan Kagiyama.

Valencia won the league championship in 2012 and it finished second in 2013. The other schools involved are all from Southern California and they included several teams from beach communities.

Yet the inland Valencia Vikings continue to rise to the top of the ranks.

“I think we’ve got a group of girls who really, genuinely love playing sand volleyball. ... It’s different enough that there’s a renewed passion because its not the same. It’s not more 6-on-6 drills and a gym environment,” Knudsen said.

Beach competitions are held at various locations along the coast, going as far south as Huntington Beach and as far north as Santa Barbara.

Both Valencia and Trinity are part of the Mountain Division, and they’ll both compete at Dockweiler Beach in Playa Del Rey on Saturday for the third week of the season.

“If nothing else, we’re spending a day at the beach together,” said Alison Buchanan, head coach of Trinity’s first beach team.

She said the idea of creating a beach squad was proposed to her this past fall when a player on the indoor team brought it up.

Before long, the wheels were turning and many of the same players who competed on the gym floor were setting foot onto the sand.

Trinity is off to an 0-4 start with six total players on the roster, which is the minimum to create the required three pairings.

“It’s kind of like running a new sport in a way,” Buchanan said. “It’s volleyball, but it’s so different.”

Trinity’s team consists of three varsity indoor players Jessica Eblin, Emily Buchanan and Rachel Anderson, and JV players Hannah Lee, Christina Mumper and Alaina Ossenkop.

Weekly competitions will continue throughout the month and eventually lead to the playoffs from May 6-10, at the end of which a champion will be crowned.

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