PRINCESS ANNE, Md.- The University of Maryland Eastern Shore announced Thursday the intention to add women’s beach volleyball to the roster of sports beginning play in the spring of 2022. It will become the 15th sport for the university.
“Women’s Beach Volleyball is a sport we have been looking at adding for some time,” said Director of Athletics Keith Davidson. “Being located here on ‘The Shore’ we see it as a natural fit to our department and a natural fit to our area. It is the fastest growing sport in the NCAA and we believe with the strength of our indoor program that it makes sense to add it to our volleyball offerings.”
The plan to add the sport fits within the existing financial footprint of the department as women’s indoor Head Coach Trevor Callarman and Assistant Coach Heather Feldman are expected to serve in similar capacities within the beach program.
There are currently two sand courts on campus in addition to nearby Winterplace Park in Salisbury, Maryland, that boasts two courts. While the courts will need to be upgraded to meet the NCAA standards, they will provide a good starting point for team practice and competition.
Currently, Stevenson University, which is a Division III school, is the only other school in Maryland to offer the sport. Maryland Eastern Shore will be the second most northern school on the eastern seaboard to offer the sport as no school in neighboring Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia or Pennsylvania offers it.
“Being located on the Eastern Shore near Ocean City, Maryland, and the resorts in Delaware like Rehoboth Beach, Dewey and Bethany — all well-known beach volleyball locations — there is no better place to begin a beach program than here at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore,” said Callarman.
Ocean City has a history of hosting amateur and professional events including those sanctioned by the USA Volleyball National Beach Tour and Association of Volleyball Professionals.
“Not only will we be the first beach volleyball program on the Eastern Shore, but we will also be the first HBCU to participate in the sport,” Davidson said. “Beach volleyball is a sport that is in dire need of more diversity and inclusion, and I am confident that this will be a great first step towards achieving that endeavor.”
There are currently just 81 total schools with NCAA beach volleyball teams encompassing both Division I, Division II and Division III. The NCAA contests a combined championship regardless of Division just like it does for bowling. Eastern Shore expects that adding the program will not only serve to boost enrollment, but attract new athletes to Princess Anne.
“Locally, there are many players who participate in beach in the summer, in clubs, or recreationally,” Callarman said. “I think this will help keep some local athletes here as well as attract students to The Shore that we may have previously not been able to recruit.”
The sport’s scheduling model features multi-team weekend events that would allow a full season’s worth of games to be played in a handful of weekends and would also allow the opportunity to host multiple teams locally for a weekend event in the future.
Seven schools with beach volleyball programs fall within an eight-hour drive of the Maryland Eastern Shore campus making travel very accessible. Those include: Stevenson, Catawba, UNC Wilmington, Coastal Carolina, University of South Carolina, College of Charleston and Carson Newman.
“Overall, it’s a win-win for the program,” Callarman said. “The indoor team will also benefit from the addition, as it will provide a chance for athletes to train in the sand in the offseason, an opportunity that has been shown to reduce injury and increase overall volleyball skill that will transfer to the indoor game.”