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EIU Media Relations

Eastern Illinois University Adds Beach Volleyball


From EIU Athletics:

(Charleston, IL) -- The Eastern Illinois Athletic Department has announced that it will be adding the sport of beach volleyball with competition for the Panthers set to begin this spring (2022).  Beach volleyball will become the 21st intercollegiate sport team at Eastern Illinois.

“We are excited about the addition of beach volleyball to our athletic department,” said athletic director Tom Michael.  “We have noticed that the programs that have incorporated beach volleyball have increased their success in indoor volleyball as well.  This is a great opportunity for our players to get a new college experience while enhancing their overall development as volleyball players.   Beach volleyball continues to be an emerging sport at both the NCAA and OVC level and we are happy to be part of that growth.”

Current volleyball associate head coach Manolo Concepcion will serve as the head coach for the Panthers beach volleyball team which will incorporate the players on the current indoor volleyball roster as team members as they retain eligibility from the fall into the spring semester.

“It is an honor to be leading such a wonderful new project. I am grateful for the efforts, trust, and support that Dr. Glassman, Tom Michael and Sara Thomas have provided in order to make this come to fruition. Adding Beach to the repertoire of volleyball brings a new element of excitement, momentum, and skill development contribution to the long-term goals and objectives that we have traced,” said Concepcion.  “The OVC has been an incredible advocate of beach volleyball, and we wanted to be part of this movement. This will help our program reach a larger population in our city, as we look into becoming directly involved with the growth of the game in the area. The hope is to provide more opportunities and inspire young generations to play one or both of the sports that we love.”

Eastern Illinois becomes the fourth school in the Ohio Valley Conference to sponsor the sport of beach volleyball joining Austin Peay, Morehead State and UT Martin.  Chattanooga competes as an affiliate member in beach volleyball in the OVC which will host its conference championship for this season on April 28-30 in Morehead, Ky.  A total of 84 NCAA schools at the Division I, II and III levels fielded beach volleyball programs in 2020-21 with the NCAA Championship for the event held in early May in Gulf Shores, Ala. The Ohio Valley Conference is one of eight NCAA Division I conferences that currently sponsor beach volleyball.

EIU is the first NCAA Division I school in the state of Illinois to sponsor the sport of beach volleyball and the second Illinois based institution joining Principia College (NCAA Division III in Elsah).  

EIU volleyball head coach Sara Thomas will serve as an assistant coach for the Beach Volleyball program.  The beach volleyball program will work in conjunction with the city of Charleston to utilize the sand volleyball courts currently located at Sister City Park as a practice and potential competition venue.

“This is a great opportunity for our program and university to attract quality student-athletes in the sport of volleyball,” said Thomas.  “With the growth of beach volleyball at both the high school and collegiate level, this will help our program attract well-rounded players that can help us compete both on the court and in the sand.  I’m excited to see the benefits of adding beach to our department as it will provide our players a chance to train in the sand in the offseason.  We are starting the process as most programs do, aiming for players being able to transition from indoor to beach, or the other way around, with the hope of growing each sport enough to become their own thing.”

The inaugural championship for the National Collegiate sport took place in spring 2016. When the sport was placed on the list of emerging sports for women in 2009, it was called sand volleyball. But because the sport is known as beach volleyball at all other levels of play throughout the world, the committee made its decision on the name based on membership support from all three divisions' championship committees, as well as the support of the American Volleyball Coaches Association and USA Volleyball. (NCAA, 2015)   Southern California (USC) won the 2021 Beach Volleyball National Championship as eight teams were selected for the championship field.
In NCAA beach volleyball, two schools play five best two-out-of-three set doubles matches against one another, with the winner being the first to claim at least three of the contests. The NCAA championship will have an eight-team bracket that will be played in a double-elimination format.



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Media Relations
Josh Reinhart, Public Information Coordinator

2142 Old Main
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920
Fax: 217-581-8444

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