The Missouri State Bears dropped the first beach volleyball match in program history on Friday when they lost a 4-1 decision to Nebraska.
The win was Nebraska’s 2nd on the season, but the result was less significant than the fact that the match happened at all. In the country’s Midwest, indoor women’s volleyball reigns supreme. The area hasn’t seen the explosion of interest in the sport that the southern, western, and southeastern United States have, but offers massive growth potential in a region where players capable of earning Division I indoor scholarships sometimes can’t get off the bench on their high school teams.
Friday’s match between two teams in land-locked states without an ocean or even a great lake for hundreds of miles is significant because it’s a new test of the sport’s ability to pull interest form the college level. NCAA schools continue to add beach volleyball programs at an unprecedented pace, and given the relatively-low costs of running beach volleyball programs, that trend is expected to at least continue, if not accelerate, in the next few years. In the midwest, at least, it will be that pull, rather than a push from the youth ranks as is seen in sports like lacrosse, that will dictate the sport’s long-term success.
Nebraska is their state’s only NCAA beach volleyball program; Missouri is their state’s only NCAA beach volleyball program. In spite of both programs’ indoor success, they have a lot of work to do to build their beach programs to the same level. Nebraska won the indoor NCAA title in volleyball in 2017, but their beach team finished just 5-7.
Both teams are still pulling largely from their indoor programs. That includes at the #1 line, where Kelly Hunter, Nebraska’s indoor volleyball All-American setter, squared off against incoming indoor transfer Taylor Fricano, an All-ACC player at North Carolina through December.
The Nebraska beach team is loaded with indoor players that don’t have much beach experience – and while the skills between the two games are transferable, they are not perfectly so, leaving an experience gap that will only be fully closed when both schools start to field rosters of year-round beach specialists.
- No. 1 – Kelly Hunter/Lauren Stivrins (NU) def. Taylor Fricano/Veronica Snelling (MSU), 17-21, 21-13, 15-8
- No. 2 – Annika Albrecht/Kenzie Maloney (NU) def. Aubrey Cheffey/Julia Hanson (MSU) 21-18, 22-20
- No. 3 – Jazz Sweet/Sami Slaughter (NU) def. Sarah Demmer/Maddie Back (MSU) 22-24, 26-24, 15-11
- No. 4 – Mikaela Mosquera/Sam Brinkmann (MSU) def. Chesney McClellan/Hayley Densberger (NU), 17-21, 21-17, 17-15
- No. 5 – Jasmine Schmidt/Allie Havers (NU) def. Lynsey Wright/Ivy Reynolds (MSU) 21-12, 21-11
Order of finish: 5,4,3,2,1