Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sand | This road to college volleyball began on Seattle sand

  • West Seattle star Eastyn Baleto will bring beach skills to New Mexico

Albuquerque soars more than a mile above sea level. There are no ocean beaches, but plenty of sand. And that suits Eastyn Baleto just fine.

West Seattle HS's Eastyn Baleto will play sand at New Mexico
-photo courtesy Juan Hernandez
Baleto, a West Seattle High School senior, will play collegiate sand volleyball next season at the University of New Mexico. Baleto has played both beach and indoor volleyball since middle school. Playing indoors, she earned 2013 MVP honors for the Metro Sound Division, and wide acclaim on her club team, Puget Sound Volleyball Academy. Playing outdoors, she and her partners have won several doubles tournaments, including U-16 division at the high profile 2012 Seaside Tournament, with partner Shayne McPherson.

“I love that it is doubles instead of sixes,” Baleto tells Volleyblog Seattle. “I love playing with a team, but I like the amount of reps that you get and that you have one partner. It’s almost a solo sport, but it’s not. And I feel like I have more freedom on the sand. I like to dive around.”

Baleto’s mom, the former Genne Terry, was a star player for the University of Washington, leading the 1986 Huskies in kills, kills per game, attacks and service aces. Her 54 aces was a school record that stood for 17 years until it was broken in 2003 by Sanja Tomasevic. Her dad, Joe, has been her sand coach, her club coach and her high school coach.

“Eastyn makes me a better coach,” Joe says. “She is a great kid to coach. As a daughter being coached by her dad, it is like being under a microscope. She has handled every day with class.”

New Mexico won’t launch its sand program until next spring. “Eastyn is a kid I foresee with a bright future,” says Lobos head coach Jeff Nelson. “Right now, in year one and year two, we are a non-scholarship program. Starting in year three, we will be a full scholarship program.”

During its first three seasons, women’s collegiate sand volleyball has been an NCAA demonstration sport, with national championships conducted by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. With dozens of schools adding the sport this year and next—including Washington and most of the Pac-12—sand volleyball is all but certain to be a full-fledged NCAA sport soon.

While rules are still being adjusted, players on sand scholarships may not play indoor for at least their first two seasons (indoor scholarship players, however, may also play sand. Baleto intends to keep a close eye on her options after her first two seasons.

“Right now I’m just really happy about my opportunity to play sand,” she says. “I love sand and indoor equally. But if I got the opportunity to play indoor, of course, I’d love to play both.”

Team USA setter Courtney Thompson (L) and
libero Nicole Davis celebrate in Montreux
  • On Memorial Day, Baleto was honored with the 18s Division Candis Carter Inspiration Award at the Annual Emerald City Classic Invitational at the University of Washington. Washington Volleyball Academy’s Rebecca Owen of Pine Lake Middle School won the 16s Division award; Puget Sound Volleyball Academy’s Kasey Woodruff of Curtis Junior High earned the 14s Division honor. The honorees—selected by coaches—is given to liberos whose attitude on and off the court is an inspiration to teammates and opponents.
  • In Montreux, Switzerland, former Washington All-American setters Jenna Hagglund and Courtney Thompson led Team USA to its second straight victory at the 29th Montreux Volley Masters Invitational. USA (2-0) swept Japan (1-1) 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-20). Head coach Karch Kiraly gave most of the playing time to those who had not had seen much action in the previous day’s victory over Germany. Hagglund—celebrating her birthday—started all three sets, with Thompson seeing action in each frame. Kristin Hildebrand led all attackers with 11 kills. Team USA finishes Pool Play Friday at noon (Pacific) against Dominican Republic.

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