SEATTLE - The University of Washington announced the addition of women’s sand volleyball as the Huskies’ 22nd varsity sport Thursday. Keegan Cook, an assistant on the indoor volleyball coaching staff, has been named head coach of the sand team, and will serve under the direction of Director of Volleyball, Jim McLaughlin. The Huskies’ sand squad will begin competition this spring, and will feature all 11 returners from UW’s 2013 Final Four indoor squad, including AVCA player-of-the-year Krista Vansant.
“We are excited to add women’s sand volleyball, and give our student-athletes the opportunity to compete for championships in a sport that is new to us,” Director of Athletics Scott Woodward said. “The rapid growth of participation in the sport here on the West Coast and nationally speaks to its popularity, and the remarkable potential it offers here at the University of Washington.”
In 2010, sand volleyball was identified by the NCAA as an emerging sport, intended to provide additional athletic opportunities to female student-athletes. According to the American Volleyball Coaches Association, nearly 500,000 13-25-year-old female participants have taken up the sport since 2007.
“The support of volleyball in our community is tremendous, and we are excited to bring a new variety of the game to the University of Washington,” Cook said. “This addition shows a high level of commitment to our volleyball program, and I’m grateful to Scott Woodward, Jim McLaughlin and our athletic administration for this opportunity.”
Fifteen schools competed in sand volleyball in 2012, and an additional 15 added the sport in 2013. If the total number of Division I and II institutions sponsoring varsity programs for one year reaches 40, the NCAA will begin to sponsor an NCAA Championship in the sport. Recent schools to add sand volleyball are Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, South Carolina and LSU. The Huskies became the eighth Pac-12 institution to add the sport, following Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and USC. There were 39 NCAA-sponsored sand volleyball teams in 2013.
“You haven’t lived a full volleyball life unless you’ve spent time in the sand at some point,” Jim McLaughlin, UW Director of Volleyball said. “Bringing a new dimension of the game allows us to build upon the foundation of excellence established here at Washington, and offers us new opportunities to propel our programs to even greater heights.”
Department officials expect a competition schedule to be finalized in the coming months.
“Our recent experience in Seattle at the Division I national championship made it abundantly clear that Washington is volleyball country,” AVCA executive director Kathy DeBoer said. “Adding a sand team is a great move. It will build on the enthusiasm that is already here and give fans a spring and summer opportunity to follow the Huskies.”