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Tennessee Tech adds beach volleyball for 2023 spring season

Tennessee Tech adds beach volleyball for 2023 spring season

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech University President Dr. Phil Oldham and Director of Athletics Mark Wilson announced that the Golden Eagle Athletics Department will be adding the sport of beach volleyball with competition for the purple and gold set to begin in the spring of 2023. Beach volleyball will become the 15th intercollegiate sports team at Tennessee Tech.

"Beach volleyball brings energy and opportunity for our student-athletes and fans," President Oldham said. "Our university and our conference continue to pursue growth and excellence. Working together to add sports is a way to keep athletics vibrant and relevant on our campuses."

Wilson added, "We are excited to announce the addition of beach volleyball to the Tennessee Tech Athletics Department," Wilson said. "This is a significant opportunity for our current volleyball student-athletes to compete in an emerging sport and take in a new collegiate experience while enhancing their development as volleyball players. We are proud to join this relatively new venture in the Ohio Valley Conference and are excited to begin competing for league championships in spring 2023."

Current volleyball associate head coach Zach Weinberg will serve as the head coach for the Golden Eagle beach volleyball team, which will incorporate the players on the current indoor volleyball roster as team members as they retain eligibility from the fall into the spring semester.

"First, I'd like to thank Mark Wilson and [Tech volleyball head coach] Jeannette Phillips for trusting me with leading the very first beach team at Tennessee Tech," Weinberg expressed. "Being named the head coach is humbling, yet exciting, and I can't wait to get started.

"I'm very excited for my role in the volleyball program to morph as I take on beach volleyball. While I won't be on the road recruiting quite as much anymore, I'm thrilled that I will have more of an opportunity to enhance the experience of our current student-athletes and make sure that they graduate from Tennessee Tech having had the best overall experience we could provide them."

Tennessee Tech will represent one of five programs in the OVC to sponsor the sport of beach volleyball upon initial competition in 2023, joining Eastern Illinois, Morehead State, UT Martin, and new league member Lindenwood. Chattanooga also competes in the OVC as an affiliate member in beach volleyball, bringing the total of teams competing for an OVC title to six in 2023.

"I'm thrilled that our student-athletes will have an additional chance to compete for an OVC championship and a berth to the NCAA Tournament," Weinberg explained. "These players have trusted Coach Phillips and me as we rebuilt the indoor program, and they are responsible for getting TTU volleyball to a place where we can once again compete for an OVC title. They deserve to be rewarded for all of their efforts and I believe that having the chance to compete for an additional OVC crown is that perfect reward."

As of the 2022 campaign, a total of 86 NCAA schools at the Division I (64), II (16), and III (six) levels fielded beach volleyball programs, with the NCAA Championships for the event set to be held May 6-8 in Gulf Shores, Ala. The Ohio Valley Conference is one of eight NCAA Division I conferences that currently sponsor beach volleyball.

"I'm ecstatic for what adding beach means for our students-athletes," Weinberg added. "Even though beach is the fastest growing sport in the NCAA, I would still consider it in its infancy. Our players jumping into the sport now and continuing to grow the game will be a mark of pride for them, and they will always be able to say they were part of the inaugural beach team at Tennessee Tech.

"I can't wait to see how playing beach volleyball molds the overall skills of our student-athletes. They have made such strides in indoors, and now that they are stepping onto the beach, they will continue to grow their game and transform into complete volleyball players. Playing on the beach will help their court vision, their conditioning, and assist them in gaining tangible, transferable skills they can use on the beach or on the court."

Tech will become the fourth NCAA Division I school in the state of Tennessee to sponsor the sport of beach volleyball, joining Austin Peay, Chattanooga, and UT Martin, and the seventh Tennessee-based institution overall, which also included Carson-Newman, Lincoln Memorial (LMU), and Tusculum.

Current volleyball head coach Jeannette Phillips will have oversight over all things volleyball.

"This is such an exciting time for Tennessee Tech volleyball," Phillips expressed. "Our group is very excited to be the inaugural beach team, experience something new, and have a different opportunity than any other athlete on campus. Our sport has the ability to offer a very unique crossover opportunity to compete in a similar, yet completely different way. We cannot wait to get started and see how our indoor skills transfer to the sand and how the sand allows us to grow through the indoor game. This group has been through so much change lately, and this is a change that we welcome with open arms."

The inaugural championship for the National Collegiate sport took place in spring 2016. When the sport was placed on the list of emerging sports for women in 2009, it was called sand volleyball. But because the sport is known as beach volleyball at all other levels of play throughout the world, the committee made its decision on the name based on membership support from all three divisions' championship committees, as well as the support of the American Volleyball Coaches Association and USA Volleyball. (NCAA, 2015)  Southern California (USC) won the 2021 Beach Volleyball National Championship as eight teams were selected for the championship field.

In NCAA beach volleyball, two schools play five best two-out-of-three set doubles matches against one another, with the winner being the first to claim at least three of the contests. The NCAA championship will have an eight-team bracket that will be played in a double-elimination format.

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