SFA has added beach volleyball to the list of NCAA sports offered at the University with the inaugural season beginning in the 2019- 20 academic year.
The beach volleyball program was established through the Gender Equity plan that was approved in 2016, according to Ryan Ivey, director of athletics.
“The decision to add beach volleyball to our compliment of sport offerings was independent of the indoor team success,” Ivey said. “However, the success of our indoor program provides tremendous opportunities when it comes to recruiting and name recognition. The success of the indoor team is noticed throughout the collegiate volleyball world, indoor and beach.”
During its 2018 season, SFA’s indoor volleyball team had a 29-game win streak, but the season was cut short in opening round of the NCAA Tournament by the University of Texas Longhorns.
Recently, Alex Luna was announced as SFA’s head beach volleyball coach. Luna is a North Texas native who graduated from University of Texas-Dallas with degrees in psychology and marketing. Luna played baseball, tennis and volleyball throughout his college career.
After graduation, Luna worked in marketing while coaching on the side. As time went on, Luna discovered his true passion was coaching and accepted a position at San Jose State in California as beach volleyball assistant and later, indoor volleyball assistant.
“It’s an awesome investment that the school is making,” Luna said. “We’re building four courts. This complex is supposed to have lights, bleachers, showers, water fountains, custom nets and pole pads. It’s going to be a private facility, so just for the beach volleyball program so it won’t be open to the public, which is good. It allows us to preserve the courts to the standard which we need to be able to compete in the NCAA and host big events.”
These courts will be built near the kinesiology building and the rec center.
Luna is having to take a nontraditional approach to recruitment for SFA’s first season.
“All of the rules you have for the processes you go through as a recruiter and a coach get thrown out the window,” Luna said. “Typically, you’d have a recruit on a visit, and you’d be able to show them what life is like as a student athlete in that sport. We’ve had recruits on campus already and I can’t introduce them to teammates, I can’t show them the facilities because they’re not done yet, I can’t show them the locker rooms because they’re not done yet, so it’s a way different recruiting game.”
Luna said he has to rely on the player’s relationship with him and the University. A recruit has to imagine life in a program that does not yet exist.
“Even the faculty takes the time to meet with recruits and sell a program that doesn’t even exist yet,” Luna said. “All the support from the administration and the faculty coupled with Coach Humphreys [SFA indoor volleyball team head coach] and her experience and mentorship, it gives me a lot of confidence to say that I think this program can be really good and take off really fast and be a really fun new endeavor for everyone around here.”
SFA also will be adding a new venue.
“Beach is a completely different game than indoor and provides a laid-back atmosphere that engages multiple groups of people,” Ivey said. “With beach being a spring sport, it provides another opportunity toward the end of the spring semester for people to enjoy our beautiful campus at one of the best times of the year.”
In its inaugural season, the beach volleyball team will use crossover athletes from the indoor volleyball team. Indoor volleyball is played in the fall, and beach volleyball is played in the spring.
SFA’s beach volleyball team is in the Southland Conference. Starting in 2020 the SLC will officially sponsor the sport. By 2020 there will be a conference championship. Luna also hopes to play other schools not in SLC that are located in Texas, Louisiana, and on the west and east coasts.
“So much of the credit of the way this thing is being done should go to Coach Humphreys and what she’s doing with indoor,” Luna said. “She’s been and continues to be a really great mentor for me. I can’t tell you how much confidence it gives me to have the administration, the athletic director, Ryan Ivey, our academic staff, trained staff... everyone is on board.”