Hawaii beach volleyball: 7 indoor players attempt to find their sand legs

Brooke Van Sickle went up for a swing at UH beach volleyball practice on Thursday. / Photo by Brian McInnis

Sailors have sea legs. Beach volleyball players?

“One thing we talk about is getting your sand legs,” Hawaii beach coach Jeff Hall said of when an indoor volleyball player makes the spring transition to the uneven playing surface. “Coming from indoor, they go to jump out here, and they don’t get out of the sand. Or they’ll lateral jump instead of jumping straight up and down.”

Seven UH indoor players — Brooke Van Sickle, Jolie Rasmussen, Hanna Hellvig, Norene Iosia, Janelle Gong, Kamalei Krug and Riley Wagoner — are on the beach roster for the 2020 season, which starts Saturday morning at Queen’s Beach.

UH opens the typically stacked Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic against No. 1 UCLA at 9 a.m.; No. 3 LSU and No. 19 Stanford are also in the field.

“It’s about, I would say, three to five days, and then about 10 days before all the skills kind of kick in,” Hall said. “We’re weeks past that. The first day (of practice) I was a little nervous, when I saw everybody, and now I’m really happy with where we’re at. They’re now SandBows. They’re not indoor kids at this point.”

Well, almost, according to Van Sickle, who proved herself as a versatile indoor player in the fall as a transfer from Oregon. It’s been a little awkward, she said, even having played a year of beach as a Duck and some past club experience.

“Definitely way harder to move in. We’re always tripping, goofy-footed out here,” she said with a laugh on Thursday. “The wind’s also another one. The sun also. Everything.”

Seven is a larger haul of crossover players than the norm. Last season, for example, there were three: Emily Maglio, Angel Gaskin and Iosia.

More is asked of any one beach volleyball player in any given rally — it’s just two to a side instead of six — than of their indoor counterparts. “Out here, everybody’s gotta set, everybody’s gotta pass,” Hall said.

Meanwhile, the indoor players have shared their propensity to swing hard, challenge the block and ask questions later.

Hall said the uptick in indoor players this year was a result of a healthy roster and some that have prior beach experience.

“This is a nice influx,” Hall said. “Robyn (Ah Mow) has done a great job training her kids and getting them to be just absolutely committed to their craft, and they’ve brought that work ethic here, which I’m proud of. And it rubs off on our girls. Not to say our girls aren’t working hard, but it’s just been a nice mix for them to come over. I think you’ll see a few of those girls in the lineup this weekend.”

Specific pairings and flights haven’t been disclosed. Hall encouraged curious people to head out to Queen’s themselves and take in the tournament. After the UCLA matchup, UH faces Stanford at noon and LSU at 4:30.

On Sunday, the semifinal pairings will be held at 10:30 and noon, with the championship slated for 3 p.m.

Brooke Van Sickle attempted to smack the ball back over the net at practice on Thursday. / Photo by Brian McInnis