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Elk Grove Citizen

College Volleyball Players Make an Impact on Sand

Apr 25, 2024 09:41AM ● By Ryan Lorenz

Cosumnes River College Beach Volleyball freshman Cassidy Pham serves against Folsom Lake College during their matchup on April 5 at Sacramento's Softball Complex. The Hawks had an overall record of 8-7 and a Big 8 conference record of 6-5 in their inaugural season. Photo by Ryan Lorenz

ELK GROVE, CA (MPG) - Cosumnes River College’s inaugural season of beach volleyball has gone swimmingly and has left the Hawks excited for the future.
Beach volleyball is played in pairs with five different matches happening simultaneously. Each pair attempts to score 21 points first to win a set. The pair that wins two out of three sets wins the match. Whichever team wins three out of the five matches wins the game.
As of April 15, Cosumnes River College had a record of 8-6 and a conference record of 6-4, with only one of their players having prior experience playing beach volleyball.
“We’re actually third in our conference, which is awesome,” CRC beach volleyball head coach Kari Nahlen said. 
The Hawks have gone head-to-head with their conference opponents and are looking to end their season strong.
“We’re just behind people who have already had seasons in sand, so coming in and being a first-year program and being third is pretty amazing,” Nahlen said.
Nahlen has been head coach of the Cosumnes River College indoor volleyball team for seven years. Her most recent season ended in the second round of the California Community College Athletic Association championships against Sierra College.
Nahlen had previous experience playing beach volleyball.
“I was working at Pasadena City College. I was coaching there and I was coaching at Citrus College, so on my off time, I would play,” Nahlen said.
The team’s success has caught some players off guard as they continue to compete with opponents with much more experience.
“It was a bit unexpected. I had confidence in us, but being a brand new program, I didn’t know how this season’s going to go,” redshirt freshman Cassidy Pham said. 
The first two games of the season were blowout losses, but the Hawks quickly adapted and learned what they needed to do to be successful in beach volleyball.
One drastic difference between volleyball and beach volleyball is that the players have to rely on themselves rather than coaching during play.
“I’m not allowed to coach them during play,” Nahlen said. “I’m only allowed to talk to them when we are switching sides or with a timeout or things like that, so we have to teach the girls how to coach themselves instead of being able to just talk them through every point.”
Nahlen’s team has made improvements that have benefited them during their beach volleyball season but could also carry over to their indoor season.
Nahlen said that she has noticed her team improving through practice.
“Every Friday, we would still have indoor practice instead of outdoor and even the girls have noticed that they’re so much better indoors because of that,” Nahlen said.
How exactly has sand helped improve the team?
“I feel like I’ve gotten faster,” freshman Billie Throm said. “Especially when I go play indoor for fun, I can feel myself move faster.”
Nahlen said it has something to do with the mindset that the young women on the team have developed since practicing on sand.
“I think it’s just the mentality of ‘I have to go; I have to get this ball’ and not relying on the five other people on the court,” Nahlen said.
The Hawks haven’t been able to use their home courts for their beach volleyball program, though, because they are still under construction.
“The courts were supposed to be done Feb. 1,” Cosumnes River College’s athletic director Collin Pregliasco said. “Then just delays. We made last-second changes around October just to make it work.”
The last second changes involved using the Sacramento Softball Complex as a home facility in order to compete this season.
The Sacramento Softball Complex is used for practices and games for Cosumnes River College and the other Los Rios Colleges’ beach volleyball teams.
“It’s annoying. It’s so time-consuming because I have homework I want to get done because I have classes after practice,” Throm said.
Fortunately for Throm and the rest of the beach volleyball team at Cosumnes River College, the courts there are expected to be available for next season.
“We should be done,” Pregliasco said. “The most updated timeline I got was June 1.”
Pregliasco said that there are only a few beach volleyball courts in the NorCal area and even fewer that are rentable. Cosumnes River College will have six courts that can also be rented out to groups.
Renting the courts will help bring visitors and revenue to Cosumnes River College as well as help with team recruiting. Nahlen said that “many people don’t realize how great” the campus and facilities are until they actually visit.
“Hopefully that translates to other athletes coming in, whether it's indoor, outdoor, seeing what we have to offer without us having to pull teeth to get them to come,” Nahlen said.