La Jolla High girls undefeated at the beach

Sand Volleyball:

La Jolla High School Vikings vs. Scripps Ranch High School Falcons

By Ed Piper

Riley Young and Bridget Odmark stood center stage during a recent sand volleyball contest. They (along with the few parents, coaches, teammates and passersby propped on the Mission Beach seawall and splayed on the sand around the court) knew it all came down to the final of three pairings against Scripps Ranch High School left to be completed.

The other pairings had split their matches, 1-1. In this final matchup, Young, 6-foot-2 and playing confidently, was dominating at the net with her height, and she and Odmark’s communication and interplay were clicking.

Final result: The LJHS pair won in two straight games, 2-0, to close out the match and keep the Vikings’ sand contingent undefeated at this point in the season.

Said Young, who also plays indoor volleyball at La Jolla High, “Bridget is a perfect partner for me, because all of my weaknesses are her strengths and vice-versa.”

Coach Jeff Smith, blessed with a talented squad of experienced sand players, instead of barking orders said he sets a different ambience. “At practice, it is very competitive and fun,” he said, “The girls are self-driven, and there is no yelling or screaming or loud whistles like you get indoors.”

If needed, the varsity, combined with 10 other players designated as the junior varsity, sit and chill out. “Sometimes our girls show up stressed from school, so we just sit in a group for five or 10 minutes to refocus that stress and watch the waves hit the beach as we discuss our goals and expectations.”

(Indoor coaches must be jealous, not to have such a setting to reset players’ mindsets.)

For the Vikings, Chloe Luyties and Tessa Tooman are paired as Team 1, Young and Odmark, Team 2. Other varsity team members include Simone Stavros, Emma Willis, Katie Chapman, Amy Peckham and Abby Waldburger.

Said sophomore Luyties of two-person volleyball, “I like sand because you are more involved in every play and you’re a huge part of the game. All of us on the team are like sisters!” She sees her strengths as a player in setting and defense; she’s a setter on the six-person indoor team.

What is called “beach volleyball” in Olympic competition, popularized with the gold medal success of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, is called “sand volleyball” in the states.

This is because, explained one beach denizen, there aren’t beaches in other parts of the United States similar to ours in Southern California, so the sport is played on sand in locations other than the beach. Though the sand volleyball team represents La Jolla High School, it is not yet a CIF-sanctioned sport.

“Sand (compared to indoor volleyball) is very different because you need to be very versatile,” said Peckham. “It is a challenge to learn all the different strengths.”

Waldburger makes an observation on the need to know where you are more in sand volleyball, “You have to cover a lot more court, (so) your court awareness is more important,” she said, adding, another factor in sand volleyball is the wind. It affects where players position themselves to receive serves.