MARICOPA — Take a jog around Copper Sky and you might see a group of kids who look like they’re having some fun in the sand courts. But make no mistake, they are representing their school and are ready to compete.
The Maricopa High School beach volleyball team is in its fourth year of existence, and the hope is to send some of the pairs to the state tournament for the first time. Of course, like everything else, the season has been impacted by the pandemic as the players haven’t been able to hold organized practices until recently, but they’re showing up and ready to make that leap.
“I love the outdoors,” said coach Theresa Abernathy. “You’ve got the sun and the air, and this park is like a haven. Sometimes people come and watch, and that’s pretty cool.”
All but three players on this year’s team also played on the indoor volleyball team in the fall, something that is by design as Abernathy tries to get as many players this helpful offseason experience. She said it’s difficult because there are only 12 or 13 spots open in beach volleyball.
“It improves their skills and improves their confidence,” she said. “It keeps them in shape and develops their legs a lot more. They learn to communicate better because there are only two of them. Outdoors, you have to define your skills a lot more.”
Less than a week before their season begins, the Rams were still figuring out their best duos. This year, there will be no tournaments, so it’s all about getting the best pairs to match up with an opponent’s best, as the best three out of five teams in each duel meet takes the whole match. And the Rams want this to be their first winning season.
But with last season being canceled after three matches and practices starting so late, it’s hard to assess where people are at a given point. But Abernathy said she’s already seen plenty of improvement from last season, thanks to the work they’ve put in year round.
“It’s hard to develop your sand program if you can’t develop your indoor program,” Abernathy said. “So we’re trying our best to do both.”