One local coach predicted in 2015 that girls beach volleyball would be sanctioned by the California Interscholastic Federation within just two years.
It took a little longer, but at least the decision was unanimous.
The CIF’s Federated Council — a statewide group that includes superintendents, principals, and athletic directors — voted 140-0 on Friday to add girls beach volleyball to its roster of sports for next year.
“Beach volleyball is very popular,” San Marcos athletic director Abe Jahadhmy said. “I have been asked for years, ‘When will CIF add beach volleyball as a sport?’
“We built beach volleyball courts on campus several years ago with the anticipation that it could be a CIF sport in the future.”
Beach volleyball — a doubles competition played outdoors on sand — will begin official competition during the spring of 2022 and will include a state championship. The proposal to sanction girls high school beach volleyball came out of the CIF’s San Diego Section.
“This helps with giving our girls more choice of sports to play in the spring,” Jahadhmy said. “I am sure more athletes will come out for the sport now because it will be an accredited class.”
Local high schools have been playing beach volleyball as a club sport outside of CIF sanction for the last decade. Laguna Blanca was the first area school to build an on-campus facility, constructing three sand courts in 2014.
“It’s been a few years in the making and there was overwhelming support to move things forward,” said Laguna Blanca A.D. and volleyball coach Jason Donnelly. “Beach volleyball continues to grow in popularity, and it’s great for the girls to have the opportunity to compete for a CIF title.
“For the most part, we have treated beach volleyball similar to our other sports, so it won’t have that much of an effect on what we do here.”
The three-court, Rich and Sallie Ridgway Sand Volleyball Courts were constructed at San Marcos High in 2015. Dos Pueblos completed its own four-court facility last summer.
“The construction of the Twin Palms Beach Volleyball courts in Scott O’Leary Stadium has been amazing and will really help the sport take off here at DP,” athletic director Dan Feldhaus said. “We have an amazing facility on our campus and we look forward to hosting tournaments and competitions eventually.
“We no longer have to go to East Beach for practice and matches.”
Bishop Diego High has also built a sand volleyball court on its campus.
Santa Barbara High uses the city volleyball courts at East Beach, located 1.5 miles from campus.
“We’ve had beach volleyball as a club sport for quite a few years now and we’re excited it’s finally a CIF sport,” Dons A.D. Todd Heil said. “We definitely are in favor of girls beach volleyball becoming an official CIF sport given how popular it is in Santa Barbara and specifically here at SBHS.”
Ruth McGolpin, now the women’s indoor volleyball coach at Westmont College, noted the popularity of the sport in 2015 when she started the girls beach program at Dos Pueblos.
“Besides lacrosse, it’s the fastest growing sport right now,” she said at the time. “We expect to transition into a CIF-sanctioned sport by maybe 2016 or 2017.”
The sport caught fire after the team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won beach volleyball gold medals in the consecutive Olympic Games of 2004, 2008 and 2012.
The Sports and Fitness Industry Association found that sand volleyball added 1.4 million participants in the period between 2007 and 2013. Participation jumped 45% among girls ages 6 to 24.
“You have a whole generation of little girls growing up watching beach volleyball as an Olympic sport — very, very popular sport played at a very, very high level,” said Kathy DeBoer, executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Local high schools have produced such top beach players as DP’s Katie Spieler, Carly Wopat, and sisters Caitlin and Taylor Racich; Santa Barbara’s Eve Ettinger, and San Marcos’ Annika Wilson, Anastasia Kunz, Cassidy Drury Pullen and Ellie Gamberdella.
San Marcos star Taylor Wilson will be joining Gamberdella at Stanford next year, while teammate Maddie Oriskovich is bound for Pepperdine.
Dos Pueblos’ Portia Sherman, a junior who has already committed to the University of Hawaii, will get a chance to compete for a CIF state title next year.
“The sport is fairly popular at our school,” Feldhaus said. “Over the last couple of years, we have averaged about 15-18 members on the girls team.
“We are still working out some of the details of the girls beach program becoming a CIF sport. Previously, it was a club sport. We will eventually need to determine a league.
“We are hoping the boys beach volleyball program becomes an official CIF sport soon, too.”