HUNTERSVILLE – One of the state’s fastest-growing high school sports has made its way to Hopewell High.
The Titans began a beach sand volleyball program to compete at the club-sport level this spring, according to coach Jen Swingle.
Hopewell’s team begins play later this month. The Titans will compete in the North Carolina High School Sand Volleyball Association's Western Region conference.
Win enough games in their maiden season, and they’ll land a spot in the state finals May 9-10 in Raleigh.
Twenty-two players make up the Titans’ roster, which is split into varsity and junior-varsity squads.
The Titans play games at Renaissance Park in Charlotte.
Swingle said the team will be one of 33 to compete throughout the state. Apex High won the state championship last year after going 11-1.
The sport’s fast-growing nature comes as an answer to NCAA Division I and II schools showing an interest in giving scholarship money to sand volleyball players.
“It’s a big deal to start a team now, because colleges are going to be offering scholarships within the next three years,” she said.
It’s not as simple as having players switch from an indoor to an outdoor court, however.
The rules are different: Teams switch sides every seven points instead of every game. Players can go under the net and hit the ball back over as one of their three hits, unlike in indoor volleyball.
The NCHSSVA’s goal, according to its website, is to “develop sand volleyball at high schools until it reaches the 25 percent participation rate” among North Carolina High School Athletic Association members, so it can be an NCHSAA-sanctioned sport.
Hopewell’s foray into sand volleyball puts the Titans alongside Hough and North Mecklenburg high schools in fielding teams. The competitive nature of the sport attracted a slew of players, who went to Swingle in January to see if she could start a club program.
Swingle spoke with NCHSSVA President Mark Nalevanko about joining the rising number of schools with a program and then set out to build a team.
“It kind of snowballed from there,” she said. ‘This is such a great opportunity, and the girls are really excited about it. It’s a good challenge for them. If you can play on sand, you can play indoors.”