What’s up? The UCA Sugar Bears, in the inaugural year of the only program in the state, will host the first collegiate beach volleyball tournament in Arkansas on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Where? The new UCA beach courts that are near the HYPER Center and adjacent to the nature preserve.
Who’s gonna play? UCA, UT Martin, Louisiana-Monroe and Houston Baptist. UCA and UT Martin are first-year programs. The Sugar Bears have participated in tournaments hosted by ULM and Houston Baptist and have previous victories over all teams in the tournament.
When will the Sugar Bears play? 4 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday.
Is there an admission cost and where should spectators park? Admission is free. A large number of parking spaces are available in the main lot at the HYPER Center. Restrooms are available at the HYPER Center. Water fountains and restrooms are at the HYPER Center and nearby intramural fields.
Where can I watch? The courts will have bleachers but seating is also available for lawn chairs and blankets on a berm next to the nature preserve.
What about concessions? Smoothie King, the team sponsor, will have a food truck available and give out free samples to spectators.
What about weather? There is a forecast of rain Friday and Saturday. Beach volleyball, like soccer and golf, is played in all mild weather conditions, including rain and wind. The matches can be delayed by lightning or other serious weather conditions.
What is the format? Two-on-two play. Best of three sets per match (First team to 21 or win by two points). The third set is first to 15. Six matches (three at a time with the sixth an exhibition match that does not count). Winner is determined by best-of-five dual matches. The Nos. 4-6 teams usually play first followed by the Nos. 1-3 matchups. Because of sun, wind and other conditions, teams change sides of the court every seven points or in the case of the tiebreaker third set, every five points.
How are the two-player teams determined? The coaches set the pairings at the beginning of the season. To avoid appropriately named “sandbagging,” a player can compete only one spot up and down from the original pairing. For example, a No. 1 player can only be switched to the No. 2 spot. A No. 6 player can only be moved to No. 5.
How about uniforms? Bikinis, like in the Olympics? No bikinis. Uniform tops are similar to those worn by track athletes. The bottoms are traditional spandex shorts from indoor volleyball. In cooler conditions, players also have the option of tights and can wear long sleeves as long as the underneath layer matches the pattern of the other player.
Where does the sand come from? In the case of UCA, officials were able to get sand that met NCAA specifications from Arkansas, rather than import it from Michigan, which saved a lot of money. The construction of UCA’s course required several large semi truckloads of sand. 1001.4 tons of sand were used to create the courts. One can’t just go to a sandbox on a playground of some golf courses to get sand with the allowed coarseness. If the sand is too course, it can cause major cuts and abrasions on the skin and also injure eyes.
How is UCA doing? Very well. The Sugar Bears are 10-3, losing only to seventh-ranked LSU, 16th-ranked TCU and a good Tulane team, all established programs.
What about scholarships and can indoor players play beach? Beach volleyball teams are allowed six scholarships and they can be split. The regular indoor game has 12 scholarship players and they must be full scholarships. Indoor players can play beach volleyball. Beach players cannot play indoor volleyball. So, coaches must decide which players can also transition to beach while recruiting other athletes exclusively for the beach game.
What should fans look for in the beach game? If you’ve watched the Olympics, expecting an exciting free-flowing pace. All the skill sets are required for both players — defense, blocking, setting, serving, attacking. There must be rapid, on-the-fly adjustments. Teams are only allowed one timeout per set. Coaches cannot stand still and call an individual player aside to instruct him, like in basketball. They must remain in a coaching box and can only move about from court to court in the three matches.