Photos | Courtesy University of Mobile
The University of Mobile’s volleyball coach, Jon Campbell. Faith Academy’s Brinkley Hearn signs with the University of Mobile to play beach and indoor volleyball.
Alabama has played a major role in beach volleyball since the origins of the sport. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hosted the first game sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 2012.
Later that same year, Gulf Shores held the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) national collegiate championship. Four years later, the Baldwin County city transitioned to become the home of the official NCAA tournament.
For much of this time, UAB fielded the only squad in the state. Several others have joined the fun in the last few years. Spring Hill College, in fact, has twice finished in third place at the AVCA national tournament for smaller schools.
Now another local institution plans to dip its toes in the sand. The University of Mobile (UM) has officially announced its inaugural beach volleyball team will be ready for the 2021 spring semester.
On April 12, 2019, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced its National Administrative Council voted to add beach volleyball as an emerging sport in the 2019 – 2020 school year. Currently, 16 NAIA institutions are expected to sponsor beach volleyball this semester.
Jon Campbell, the current indoor volleyball coach at UM, will oversee the beach squad. Assisting with both rosters will be Amber Campbell and Melody Fillingim. The Campbells are entering their 16th season with the Rams, while this is the second year for Fillingim.
“Myself, Amber and Melody are very excited about this opportunity to start another program here at the university,” said Jon Campbell, a six-time conference coach of the year at UM. “We love coaching volleyball and are very happy to see the sport continuing to grow each year.
“We hope to bring in more athletes than ever before with this addition and look forward to our tryout dates in January. We can only hope the sport continues to grow and that the addition of beach volleyball at UM will encourage other schools in the NAIA to adopt beach volleyball in their athletic department.”
* The Rams have already begun to build their roster. Faith Academy’s Brinkley Hearn has officially signed with the Rams to play both beach and indoor volleyball.
“We are thrilled to welcome Brinkley to the University of Mobile volleyball family,” Jon Campbell said. “She signed with us to play indoor volleyball while also being the university’s first-ever signee for beach volleyball.
“Myself, Amber and Melody believe that Brinkley is a great kid who is very talented and that she is going to have a fantastic collegiate career at UM. We are all three very excited to coach her.”
School officials said this is not the first time a Faith Academy Ram has transitioned into a University of Mobile Ram. Amber Presnell Gannon is a graduate from Faith Academy and was the first-ever volleyball signee in school history at UM. Gannon has helped to coach Hearn, who was named to the All-Tournament Team for the Class 5A State Tournament in 2019 where Faith Academy fell to Jasper High School in the title game.
Hearn has been named a captain for Faith volleyball since her sophomore year while also being named to AL.com’s Player of the Year Best of the Rest category in 2018 and 2019 and AL.com’s Coastal All-Region Volleyball Team for three straight years.
* UM is a member of the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC). The Rams now
join two other current SSAC institutions that have beach volleyball as a sport: William Carey University and Martin Methodist College. However, school officials say the level of competition will range far outside of conference play. NCAA Division I, II and III institutions are approved to play NAIA members.
In fact, UM athletic department officials say they have already been taking calls from NCAA Division I competition about future scheduling. Currently, no games or dates for UM’s upcoming inaugural beach volleyball season have been officially scheduled.
For additional information regarding the upcoming volleyball seasons for the 2020 – 2021 school year, contact the coaches at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can also call the UM volleyball office at 251-442-2369. While UM has already hosted some tryouts, more dates are expected in the future.
Changes on The Hill
Speaking of beach volleyball, Spring Hill College has announced changes to its team. Cynthia Anderson has been hired as head coach for beach volleyball and as court volleyball assistant coach.
“Working at Spring Hill is a great opportunity for me as a coach,” said Anderson, a University of South Alabama (USA) graduate who has spent the past two seasons with the Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) Tigers in Bourbonnais, Illinois. “I am excited to be back in the NCAA environment coaching for a program that offers both indoor and beach.
“I am also looking forward to working with and learning from [SHC court volleyball head coach] Peggy Martin. It is also a bonus to be back in the warmth of the South.”
At ONU, Anderson was the interim head coach of the court volleyball team in 2019, building an 18-12 record. She served as the NAIA program’s assistant coach in 2018 under then-head coach Brenda Williams as the Tigers finished the year at 23-15.
Before her tenure with ONU, Anderson served as a head coach with the Southern Performance Volleyball Club in 2018 as well as the Mobile Storm Volleyball Club in 2016 and 2017. Prior to those roles, she was an assistant coach at Murphy High School in 2016.
Anderson received her Bachelor of Arts and Sciences from USA, magna cum laude, in 2017. She is currently working toward her Master of Business Administration at ONU.
“I am extremely excited to welcome Cynthia to the Badger Family,” said Martin, who started SHC’s beach volleyball program in 2015. “She comes highly recommended by her mentor at ONU, Brenda Williams, who is a friend and a legend in women’s volleyball with her roots in Alabama. I know our student athletes will embrace her passion and her intensity both indoors and in the sand.”
The Badgers’ season opens at home on Thursday, Feb. 20, versus Houston Baptist University at 1 p.m. at the Jim and Betty Walsh Beach Volleyball Facility.
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