Ospreys seek home court
Beach volleyball is one of
the fastest growing sports in the United States.
While many attribute the
tremendous interest in the sport to its popularity and success during the
Olympics, it is nothing new to the University of North Florida. In fact, UNF was one of the first 15 schools in the United States
to sponsor a beach volleyball program and the first school to earn an automatic
bid into the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Championship.
After several years as an
emerging sport in the NCAA, beach volleyball held its rst national championship
in 2016. As one of more than 50 NCAA Division I beach volleyball programs, UNF
is poised to be a national leader in the sport. Being just a few miles from the
beach is certainly a plus, but the program also has a strong history and now a
decorated championship coach.
But one key component is
missing — a home court.
Plans are underway to
change that. A new Beach Volleyball Complex would include ve courts built to
NCAA regulations, bleacher seating for at least 300 spectators and a digital
scoreboard. Naming opportunities exist for each court with a gift of $50,000,
which will be matched dollar for dollar to fund the courts. One gift
has been pledged to date with four more still available.
Coach Kristen Wright, who
came to UNF in January to coach both the volleyball and beach volleyball teams,
said a home complex would be a huge boost to the beach program. “If we can
build it up here, there is no reason we can’t have tremendous success,” said
Wright, who was an All-American volleyball player for the University of San
Diego, and coached both sports at championship levels in California.
Currently, with no real
home base, Wright practices her team on courts at a residence hall on campus,
on a single recreational court behind the Wellness Complex and at the beach.
Last year, home games were held at a conference rival’s facility.
“With top-notch facilities
at schools all over the country, we’re at a disadvantage in the conference and
nationally as the sport has evolved,” said Wright, commenting that in addition
to enhancing recruiting and consistency in training, a home site would also
greatly expand their fan base. A new facility could be utilized for major
events and tournaments as well.
Once funding is secured,
the build-out is quick — an estimated 60-120 days to be fully functional. Chris
Decent, assistant vice president for development, said the complex is the final
piece that would give the beach program an edge. “There is really a strong
potential for beach volleyball to bring UNF its first NCAA Division I national
championship,” said a hopeful Decent. “After all, we are a beach school. Why
wouldn’t we have a five- court beach volleyball facility?”