After losing 5-0 in its first game ever last week, the UCLA sand volleyball team knows it has a steep learning curve ahead.
With a tournament against USC and Loyola Marymount coming up this weekend, UCLA does not have long to make the necessary adjustments.
But in a sport where most teams are relatively new, the players said they have high hopes for what they can achieve in a short period.
Even Florida State, who dominated the last game, has only participated in the sport for one season.
“Experience always has a big role,” said freshman Becca Strehlow. “Once you learn more about the differences between indoor and sand it helps you a lot.”
Everyone on the sand team is part of the indoor squad as well, but players said the new environmental factors and the new strategy they require has made the transition challenging for everyone.
Strehlow said movement is slower in the soft sand, and the wind can make it difficult to hit the ball with accuracy.
“The two games are very different,” said coach Stein Metzger. “We have a few players who have never played sand before.”
This inexperience can be even more problematic given that sand volleyball relies much more on overall individual prowess than indoor volleyball, which involves players playing in specific roles.
“In indoors you have your specialized role, and on sand you really have to do it all,” said sophomore Zoe Nightingale.
As the team progresses through its inaugural season, players said their aim is simply to stay calm and focused despite the novel nature of the sport.
“I think we have potential to get better … it’s just a matter of focusing on the small things and trying not to play too fast,” Strehlow said.
But given UCLA’s historic success in indoor volleyball, the coaches said they are not concerned about their players’ ability to adapt.
“At UCLA, we are blessed with talented athletes. We just need to learn the game,” Metzger said.