Photos | NCAA
On Oct. 14 the NCAA announced its future championship site selections through 2026, including awarding the 2022-24 Beach Volleyball Championships to the city of Gulf Shores.
Alabama has been the epicenter of beach volleyball for many years. Back in March 2012, The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hosted Florida State University in the first match sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Because it was still not an official NCAA activity — too few colleges were fielding teams — the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) stepped in to sponsor the Collegiate Sand Championships in 2012. While several communities put in bids to host the playoffs, the eventual winner was the Gulf Shores Public Beach facility.
The response by players and fans was positive. Sports Travel magazine named the inaugural tournament as its Best New Event for that year.
When beach volleyball officially became the NCAA’s 90th sanctioned sport in 2016, the decision was made to keep the organization’s first championship in Gulf Shores. The University of Southern California took home the initial two titles, while their rivals from UCLA captured the last two trophies.
The sand was not disturbed in 2020 as the NCAA canceled all spring sports championships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some good news has arrived.
The NCAA recently announced its future championship site selections. The city of Gulf Shores was again awarded the beach volleyball tournament through 2024. UAB will remain the sponsor school, and the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission will continue to host the event.
“To say we are proud and looking forward to continuing the NCAA beach volleyball tradition along Alabama’s beaches is an understatement,” said Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission. “The city of Gulf Shores, UAB, the sports commission and other partners work tirelessly to make our destination the go-to for beach volleyball, showcasing our sugar-white sand on the national stage with NCAA and ESPN.”
The NCAA was already planning to return to Gulf Shores next year to resume its beach volleyball championship. It is currently scheduled for May 7-9, 2021.
However, the run of serving as host will eventually end. The NCAA also announced the championship will move for the first time to Huntingdon Beach, Calif., for 2025 and 2026.
Beach volleyball has continued to expand since its early days. Spring Hill College — an NCAA Division II member — has twice finished in third place at the AVCA Small College Beach Championships. The University of Mobile — a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) — was to have started its inaugural season in October, but COVID-19 postponed play.
Local organizers say that in conjunction with the NCAA event, the Gulf Coast Region of USA Volleyball hosts hundreds of youth and adult pairs adjacent to the championship site for national qualifiers. Two 2020 Gulf Shores High School graduates — Marti McLaurin and Lauren Quigley — are now playing beach volleyball at the collegiate level. McLaurin is at UAB while Quigley plays for the University of North Alabama.
University of South Alabama (USA) women’s basketball seniors Antoinette Lewis and Savannah Jones have been selected preseason first-team all-Sun Belt Conference (SBC). Lewis picked up Preseason Player of the Year honors as well.
A year ago, Lewis averaged 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game — her 16 double-doubles were highest in the league and among the top 20 nationally — while adding 61 blocks, 44 steals and 35 assists, and shooting 52.1 percent from the floor. The 6-foot-1 center stood second in the conference in rebounds and blocked shots per outing, ending up among the top 45 nationally in both categories. She ranked third in the SBC and among the top 50 in the country in field-goal percentage.
Lewis is included among the 20 watch list candidates for the 2021 Lisa Leslie Award as announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. Named after the three-time All-American, the annual award recognizes the top centers in women’s NCAA Division I college basketball.
Jones recorded averages of 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last winter, making 84 of 220 attempts from three-point range to go along with 49 assists, 27 steals and 20 blocked shots. The 6-foot guard ended the season leading the Sun Belt in three-point field goals per contest and three-point field-goal percentage — finishing among the top 60 in the country in both categories — and was sixth in the league in scoring as well.
The two earned second- and third-team recognition, respectively, last season. Both Lewis and Jones recorded the 1,000th point of their careers during the 2019-20 campaign, with the latter also breaking the program’s all-time three-point field goal mark as well.
- USA men’s basketball senior Michael Flowers has been named third-team preseason all-conference. The 6-foot-1 guard was an honorable mention all-Mid-American Conference selection last season at Western Michigan. He averaged 17 points and 2.9 rebounds, and handed out 104 assists. He ranked sixth in the league in scoring and free-throw percentage, ninth in assists and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio while scoring 10 or more points 29 times.
- The Southern States Athletic Conference has named RJ Kelly of the University of Mobile as its Men’s Basketball Player of the Week. In two games for the Rams, the senior recorded two double-doubles, giving him three straight to begin the season, and averaged 22 points per game. Kelly helped lead Mobile to an upset victory over NAIA powerhouse LSU-Alexandria, which was ranked No. 13 in the country.
- The Stadium sports network has released a list of the top men’s basketball assistant coaches in the Sun Belt Conference. University of South Alabama associate head coach Amorrow Morgan was ranked third on the list after Stadium polled more than 20 coaches in the league.
“Amorrow is as good as there is in the country, period,” said South head coach Richie Riley. “He is extremely detailed in all that he does and is a high-level recruiter, but what he does best is teach the game.”
In his first two seasons with the program, Morgan helped the Jags post a 37-28 record after South won its final eight games to end last year 20-11 (the first 20-win season since the 2008-09 campaign). That included a 13-7 mark in Sun Belt action as the Jaguars secured the second seed at the league tournament, which was canceled because of COVID-19 before USA could play a game in the event.
Soccer tryouts scheduled
In preparation for the spring season, the AFC Mobile soccer club will offer player evaluations and placements for boys and girls born in years 2009 through 2013. This evaluation will be for both returning and new players.
Players may check in at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8 (years 2011 to 2013) and at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10 (years 2009 and 2010) at the Mobile County Soccer Complex (3701 Halls Mill Road in Mobile). Returning players should register by visiting https://forms.gle/VADWg8Nmp9y3gdDq8. New players may register by visiting afcmobile.sportngin.com/register/form/583585746, completing the forms and uploading the required documents.
There is no cost to register. Players should also bring water and a size 4 soccer ball. Returning players should wear their AFC Mobile training top, black shorts/exercise pants, black socks, shin pads and soccer cleats. All new players should wear a gray T-shirt, black shorts/exercise pants, black socks, shin pads and soccer cleats.
For additional questions, send an email to email@example.com.
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