McCollum’s Column: UCA establishes a ‘beach head’ in style

UCA’s Amy South goes on the attack

About the only thing missing was a reggae band and the ocean.

There was music, lots of it.

There were smoothie samples, courtesy of Smoothie King, the sponsor of the UCA Invitational, the first collegiate beach volleyball tournament in Arkansas, hosted by UCA as a cap to its inaugural season.

Another tournament sponsor was Grassroots Lawn Care. Smoothie King is a logical match. It’s uncertain the connection with a lawn care service with a competition played on sand. There were no grass samples — or weed as someone suggested with sarcasm.

Another somewhat discongruent element is Kristine Hjembo, one of UCA’s top players, is from Norway. When you think of beach volleyball recruiting, you don’t always grab a ticket to Norway.

It made for a nice blend.

Regardless of the mix, everything clicked nicely Thursday afternoon at the new UCA courts.

The Beach Bears swept UT Martin in six matches in straight sets. The weather was beautiful. The 1,001.4 tons of sand used to create the UCA court was top-of-the-line Gulf Coast white. The players took a break in chairs under straw cabanas.

There were a good group of spectators, some curious about the new sport, other loyal UCA volleyball fans.

Some confusion resulted in figuring out which of the three matches being played concurrently were on which court. Clue. The top-seeded match of the three is at center court.

It’s challenging to watch three doubles matches at the same time.

UCA has one of the neatest non-ocean settings you’ll find for beach volleyball. The courts are staggered, giving each one its special emphasis. The berm above the court in front of the nature preserve offers a great place to watch all three matches plus shade. Those who want a break can take one of the hiking trails through the forest at the preserve.

Some spectators brought their dogs.

It’s one sports venue here that shorts, beachwear and flip-flops blend nicely into the spirit and the setting.

“The setting was awesome,” said UCA coach Jeni Jones Chatman. “Our president (Houston Davis) came out. Dr. Teague (athletic director Brad) was there. You can see when the administration decided to do this, they made sure they did it right.”

Teague appeared a bit awkward in a coat and tie but he had non-beach duties. But he was there and pronounced it, “fun.”

Afterwards, some of the students who had watched the matches, played impromptu matches on the sand.

After the match, the UCA players, some chanting, “history. We made history.”

As the sun set, the footprints of history remained.

Footprints in the sand.

UCA takes to its beach well in historic match

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