With CIF Southern Section Council support, girls’ beach volleyball headed to final vote for approval

Edison's Hannah Phair, right, hits into Huntington Beach's Cami Sanchez.
Edison’s Hannah Phair, right, hits into Huntington Beach’s Cami Sanchez. Both players went on to play beach volleyball for UCLA.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The CIF Southern Section Council voted Tuesday in support of adding girls’ beach volleyball as a CIF sport in the 2021-22 school year.

The section’s council voted 83-7 in favor of the proposal. The CIF State Federated Council is scheduled to hold a vote of final approval for girls’ beach volleyball to become a CIF-sanctioned sport on Friday.

Per its bylaws, the section will not conduct playoffs or championships for a sport unless a team is fielded by at least 20% of its membership. The Southern Section, the largest of 10 sections across the state, has 559 member schools.

Several local high schools already field a beach volleyball program.

Newport Harbor girls’ volleyball coach Dan Glenn could hardly contain his excitement at the thought that beach volleyball could become a CIF-sanctioned sport, saying that he would volunteer himself to serve on a committee for the sport.

Glenn helped get an Orange County high school beach volleyball league off the ground for both boys and girls, which he said would be entering its seventh season this spring.

“I’m really excited about the whole prospect of this,” Glenn said. “It’s very good, and now my next goal is going to be to be able to … make it a boys’ sport.”

Suzy Mathieson, a physical education teacher at Edison, teamed up with Zoran Forgiarini to get the Chargers’ beach volleyball club started. The program has had standouts such as Hannah Phair and Lindsey Sparks, both of whom wound up playing beach volleyball at UCLA.

In looking at the benefits of volleyball players competing at the beach in addition to indoors, Mathieson said that playing in the sand helps to build the overall game.

“It’s a lot more player-initiated rallies, and they get more ball control,” Mathieson said of beach volleyball. “You get middle blockers that are playing defense and passing serves, and it’s just making their indoor game better, I think.”

Costa Mesa girls’ volleyball coach Jillian Rifkin said she would like to have a beach volleyball team while expressing some concern about the travel involved to practice at the beach.

“Costa Mesa has a lot of multisport athletes, so we would lose some to other sports,” Rifkin said in an email. “Last year, I had a solid group I did offseason with, so hopefully I could take that offseason group and have them compete in beach.”

The Southern Section Council also voted in support of a state action item that called for a maximum of 28 games to be played in the regular season for baseball and softball. All games, including those played in tournaments, would be considered one full contest.

The CIF bylaws currently state that a team cannot participate in more than three tournaments, and each tournament would result in two games being counted towards the maximum number of contests allowed in those sports.

On Monday, the section announced it was canceling its championships for traditional competitive cheer due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Reasons for the decision included the consideration that guidelines for youth sports set forth by the California Department of Public Health limit the ability of programs to prepare for and participate in competitions ahead of the championships.

Whether student-athletes from across the seven counties that the section comprises would be able to travel to a single location and be hosted at that site was another factor.

Previously, CIF canceled its fall championships for cross-country, football, girls’ volleyball and water polo. That decision was made in the interest of creating more time for regular-season and league contests to be scheduled.


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