IRVINE, CA – The Big West Conference today announced the addition of sand volleyball as the conference's 17th-sponsored sport, and Sacramento State will be among the six schools competing for the conference championship in 2016.
Four Big West institutions currently field sand volleyball teams: Cal Poly, CSUN, Long Beach State and Hawai'i. Sacramento State and CSU Bakersfield accepted an invitation to join the conference as associate members in sand volleyball, giving the league the minimum six teams required for postseason NCAA automatic qualification.
The Big West's inaugural sand volleyball season will debut in the spring of 2016. A six-team, double-elimination conference tournament also will take place at a date and site to be determined. Initially, there will be no regular season round-robin conference competition.
"The Big West has an incredible volleyball history, and it's very exciting to be affiliated with one of the first sand volleyball leagues formed nationally," Sacramento State Athletics Director Bill Macriss said. "We look forward to playing against so many great institutions on the West Coast and competing for the league's eventual NCAA automatic berth."
Big West institutions have displayed proven success in sand volleyball, which made its debut in 2012 as an NCAA emerging sport and had its postseason competitions conducted through the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Long Beach State won the 2013 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball national championship, and finished as a national runner-up in 2012 and 2015. Hawai'i also has competed in the eight-team national bracket each of the last two seasons.
"Sand volleyball is such a fast growing sport, and we are very excited to play in the Big West with a number of quality teams," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "It's a good step for our program, and I'm excited for our players to have the opportunity to compete for a conference title and, eventually, an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship."
Sacramento State added sand volleyball as its 21st sport in March of 2013, and the program will enter its fourth year of existence next spring. The Hornets had been a member of the Northern California Sand Volleyball Consortium, which was not an NCAA-recognized conference.
The Hornets finished last season with a 6-8 record, but won four of their last six matches with a roster that included 11 underclassmen. That includes the team winning three straight to close the season over Cal, Cal Poly and Boise State, respectively. Of the team's eight losses, five came against teams ranked among the top 20 squads in the nation.
Sacramento State now has two programs in the Big West, including men's soccer which joined the league prior to the 2012 season.
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