Prep Volleyball

Summer of sand gives grit to Tri-City netters

Richland's Lauren Joseph and Kennewick's Meghan McIntyre took a different approach to their summer volleyball plans.

Once their club teams decided not to pursue national tournaments, Joseph's dad -- Craig -- came up with a bit of an off-the-wall idea.

Play in some beach volleyball tournaments.

Because there are no beaches in Eastern Washington, the pair headed to Alki Beach in West Seattle and played in two tournaments.

"The first time we played, we felt so stupid," McIntyre said. "It was completely different. By the end of the day, though, we were fine."

The pair didn't do much in the way of practicing, though they had faced each other a few times in a grass league in Richland, so they had some experience in two-person volleyball.

The difference between grass and sand, however, is quite obvious, as it is extremely difficult to jump on the beach.

"We played in the indoor Richland league the day after, and I felt like I was flying over the net," McIntyre said. "I'd never played in sand before, and I felt like I was jumping 10 feet higher."

Which is one reason Craig Joseph thought his daughter might enjoy the change of pace.

Not only did it give them a chance to get out of the gym, but also experience what is quickly becoming a highly competitive and popular sport.

"It is a much more intense sport. It seemed natural that Lauren would gravitate toward it," he said. "Both of those girls are serious volleyball players and both are very good all around. Indoors they both play full rotation, they hit, they pass and they dig well.

"I think (Lauren's) serving has really solidified a bit. She kind of misses hitting, being a setter she doesn't get to hit (on her high school team). Outdoors she gets way more opportunities to do so. It keeps her attacking skills sharp."

While the tournaments were about improving as players on the court, it was also about having fun off the court.

The first tournament the team played at was the U.S. Beach Volleyball Junior Tour Western Open.

Not a bad way to kick off their sand volleyball careers. Despite the rough start, they bounced back and tied for third. A couple of weeks later, the pair went back to Seattle on July 31 and won a tournament hosted by the Alki Volleyball Assocation.

"It helps your all-around skill," Joseph said. "Every single play you touch the ball. In six-on-six volleyball inside it is a lot easier to move; you don't touch the ball every play.

"I think both of us got better at being able to read the hitters and dig ... and being smart with your shots. On sand, you can't jump very high, so you have to play smart. You learn to see the court. And see what is open. There are definitely a lot of benefits to playing sand volleyball."

Now, Joseph and McIntyre hope those benefits play out on the hardwood courts in gyms throughout Eastern Washington this fall.

* Craig Craker: 509-582-1509; ccraker@tricityherald.com; Twitter.com/craig_craker

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