Only days separate us from the very first iteration of the NCAA's 90th championship. So, while it still has that new championship smell, catch up with five things you should know about beach volleyball:
1. You've only got one teammate
In indoor volleyball an athlete has five other players around them to help, but beach volleyball is played in pairs, changing the strategy of the individual players considerably.
“In indoor, everyone’s role is very specified because there are six on the court,” Stanford's Jordan Burgess told NCAA.com earlier in the year. “The game’s changed entirely on beach because everyone has to do everything. It adds new skills to the game, which I find exciting.”
In the indoor game, certain people look for the block, the dig and then the kill. But, on the sand, both players have to be ready to contribute in every way.
2. You win differently
While both are team sports, the way indoor and beach teams compete is completely different. Indoor volleyball has all six players on the same court, keeping the team as one unit. However, beach volleyball teams are split into five pairs each competing at the same time with the five pairs from the other team. The first team to have three pairs win their set wins the match.
Indoor volleyball coaches are allowed to instruct their teams after each point, but beach coaches are only allowed to talk to their players during side changes, which happen every seven points.
"In the sand they're going to have to coach themselves," UNCW coach Amy Bambenek told NCAA.com last year.
4. You're also competing against the weather
This may seem obvious, since beach volleyball is played outside, but the challenges weather present mean that new strategies for working around those challenges must be developed and learned. Luckily, the sport itself has integrated some handicaps due to weather concerns. Sunglasses are allowed, and teams switch sides every seven points, so the sun doesn't unequally affect one team.
5. It's not exactly "new"
We are gearing up for the inaugural NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship, but there have been past collegiate beach volleyball champions. The American Volleyball Coaches Association began sponsoring a championship tournament for collegiate beach volleyball teams in 2012. Pepperdine won two AVCA titles, in 2012 and 2014, and Long Beach State lifted the trophy in 2013. Southern California won the last AVCA championship in 2015.