Wildcats gearing up for ’23 beach volleyball season

Nate Bope, Staff Writer

After a historic season on the court, Wayne State College’s women’s volleyball looks to pivot that success onto the sand. Beach volleyball season is right around the corner, and the Wildcats are excited to swing into this year. 

Beach volleyball is a very different game than what it is on the court, and not in just the playing surface. Instead of six players on the court, it is played in groups of two called pairings. The dimensions of the sand court are smaller than that of the hardwood court.  

Not to mention the whole atmosphere around beach volleyball is much more different. Often, every pairing will play simultaneously, and the environment has been described as a big tailgate event. People are grilling food and playing music while taking in some volleyball.  

“It’s a vibe like I’ve never seen in court volleyball,” Head Coach Scott Kneifl said. “Our girls like how the vibe is a lot more chill, but they still practice and compete hard.” 

With the Wildcats not having a proper facility or weather to practice on sand, the team prepares for the beach season in a different way. 

“We try to simulate the beach game as much as we possibly can,” Kneifl said. “We use the beach volleyballs, which are lighter. We raise the net six to eight inches to simulate jumping off of sand, and we also tape the beach court lines on our court.” 

The Wildcats enter this season off a 14-6 record last year. The team were winners of the Bronze Division Playoff at the American Volleyball Coaches Association Small College Beach Championships. It was a successful season last year, but expectations around this program are always at a high level. 

“It doesn’t matter if we are playing on glass, we want to win,” Kneifl said. “The beach season is a chill vibe, but around Wayne State volleyball, winning is the vibe.” 

Heading into the 2023 season, the roster loses a couple of key players, but returns much of the talent from year. Junior Taya Beller returns to the top pairing, and even with the fact that she loses her main partner from last season, she will be highlighting this Wildcat team.  

The second pairing, consisting of juniors Jordan McCormick and Kelsie Cada, remains together, as does the pairing of juniors in Rachel Walker and Maggie Brahmer. Junior Isabelle Vacek and sophomores Brooke Peltz and Ally Beresford also return to the pairing rotations, although they all will be looking to settle into new pairings.  

Each of my teammates has their own quirks and unique ways to play the game,” Vacek said. “It has been an amazing experience to play with different people and see how they best play the game.” 

With all of these returners, the Wildcats see a lot of new faces ready to help this team along. Bunjer and early freshman enrollee Grace Baumert hope to bring a spark to this group. 

“I have never been through a beach volleyball season, but I’m really excited for this season,” Bunjer said. “I am looking forward to finding put what beach volleyball is all about.” 

Last season, the Wildcats were scheduled to have a game in Wayne, which ended up being called off due to poor weather conditions. That hasn’t stopped this team from believing it can happen this year, however. With weather permitting, WSC is scheduled to host the Ottawa University-Kansas Braves on Wednesday, March 29. 

We are so excited to host a beach game this year!” Vacek said. “Since we play a lot of games closer to the coast, having a home game means that families who aren’t able to make the long trips can still come and watch. We are hoping that the weather will work with us this year and that we will be able to show the community of Wayne our beach program.” 

WSC starts off the beach volleyball season on Friday, Feb. 24, where they travel to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Park University Pirates.