March 8, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University sand volleyball team will open its second season on the dunes over the weekend when the Green Wave travel to Birmingham, Ala., for a pair of dual matches at the UAB Sand Volleyball Courts.
The Wave will open play at the UAB Tournament on Saturday when they square off with Mercer at 2 p.m. before battling the host Blazers on Sunday at noon. The trip to The Heart of Dixie not only kicks off the 2013 Green Wave campaign but also their first under head coach Alan Segal.
While winning is the obvious goal for every team in any sport, Segal was quick to point out that coming away victorious is not his only priority when the Green Wave take the dunes over the weekend at UAB.
"I hope to see them having a fun experience," Segal said. "I think if they have that and are enjoying playing the game, then they are playing their best. I think we can be competitive. I think we can compete with a lot of the teams out there. I don't think there are any expectations out there for us until we see how we play this weekend. We'll get two matches under our belt this weekend, and that will give us a better idea of how we are going to play the rest of the season."
Tulane returns eight letterwinners from last season's inaugural team with senior Milica Jovic, juniors Azarri Badawi, Milena Dragovic and Cori Martone, and sophomores Amber Bennett, Olivia Utt, Grace Weaver and Anna Wruck back for another year. Joining the octet are indoor players Elysa Jackson and Mel Mandelbaum along with true freshmen Sophie Asprey, Courtney Liddle, Mackenzie Moore and Jackie Wegner.
While the rookies starred in the indoor game at the prep level, the quartet will be sand-only players with the Green Wave and bring impressive resumes to the program as all four earned invitations to the USA High Performance Olympic Camps during their sand careers.
"I think that having sand-only players and indoor players gives us a good balance," Segal said. "Most of the sand players are defenders, not blockers, so it lets our big girls play at the net and learn how to play with some defenders that have some good experience. It's going to make the indoor players that are playing as blockers better because they have someone behind them who knows the game really well and can read what they are doing."
This weekend's matches against the Bears and the Blazers is one of five tournaments the Green Wave will participate in during the 2013 season. The Wave will host ULM, UAB and Stetson in the Tulane Pelican Classic from March 15-17 at Coconut Beach in Kenner. From there, Tulane will take part in weekend tournaments at Florida International in Miami from March 30-31, the Georgia State Sand Invitational in Atlanta from April 6-7 and the Fiesta at Siesta (Fla.) Tournament from April 12-13.
The 2013 sand volleyball season concludes nationally at the AVCA Nationals, which are slated to take place from April 26-27 in Gulf Shores, Ala., The AVCA will selected six programs for the team championship and 16 two-person teams for the individual championship.
"As a head coach, I'm very competitive and of course I want to win but I think bottom line is that the girls should have some fun learning what the game is all about," Segal added. "No. 2, they have to get better every day that they practice. Once they start to learn the beach game and get better at it, they will start to play it at a higher level and that will increase our chances of winning. Third, which is probably the biggest goal of them all, is learning to play the game. It's a very different game, especially for our big girls."