May 31, 2023
Downtown Atlanta?  It's okay as the State of Georgia excels in beach volleyball

By Ray Glier for

It appears counterintuitive, however the heat, dry sand behind the Georgia State College Sports activities Middle is an oasis.

GSU gamers view these seashore volleyball courts as a haven from stereotypes of how a Division I participant ought to look. Nicknamed Sandy Panthers, the staff insists that GSU sand is a refuge from wired coaches at different faculties, not their very own. This sand can be a harbor of selfishness that may distort a school staff.

In the course of downtown Atlanta, this oasis of sand/tradition with the state capitol’s golden dome within the background helps clarify how a middleweight just like the State of Georgia completed fifth within the 2022 nationwide match and is at present ranked eleventh. AVCA Collegiate Seashore Coaches Survey.

That is no exaggeration. It isn’t a made-up tradition.


The Sandy Panthers’ youthful 1.70-foot-two twins Angel and Bella Ferary, who performed on Court docket 1, had been rejected as a pack by all of the Division I faculties that took them outdoors of GSU.

“Many colleges did not need us to be collectively as a result of we had been brief. They had been like, ‘We’ll get one in every of you,'” Angel stated. He and Bella are from close by Marietta, Georgia.

“We do not yell at them,” Coach Beth Van Fleet stated. “We’re not going to try this. Properly, perhaps as soon as each two years, however I would name it stricter. We do not assume the athletes are making a large number on goal.”

Freshman Cassie Thayse may have performed in just a few faculties out of highschool. He selected GSU, the place participant improvement remains to be essential. Thayse is not among the many prime 5 starters, however feels betrayed like many different misfit varsity athletes, giving no trace that he’ll quickly be heading to the switch portal.

Georgia State was 13-7 and misplaced solely to the highest groups within the nation, shedding twice to Quantity 4 Florida State.

Georgia State coach Beth Van Fleet smiles whereas interviewing ESPN’s Andraya Carter after struggling deep disappointment within the 2022 NCAA Championship/Stephen Burns picture

Van Fleet is in his tenth season as head coach and has a season of below 20 wins. Its program actually doesn’t match the traits of lots of the excellent nationwide programmes. GSU just isn’t on shore. Not in seashore volleyball castles like California, Florida or Texas.

So what’s the first constructing block, the GSU cornerstone?

For Van Fleet, structure begins with refusing to whine. GSU does not have the sources of #3 UCLA or the present #1 TCU (which Georgia State surprised on the 2022 match), so it splits tasks between 4 participant committees masking hiring, social media, upkeep and the staff. occasions. All of them attend the meals.

“I believe we have performed a terrific job of trying round and seeing what we now have and benefiting from it,” stated Van Fleet. “We do not have a look at every part we do not have and fear about it. We’re setting ourselves up for failure if we get hung up on issues we do not have in Energy 5 faculties.”

Gamers insist that success begins with Van Fleet’s participant improvement and adaptability.

“I have been right here for 5 years,” stated Kelly Dorn, a 5-9 product of Trophy Membership, Texas, “I do not assume the way in which we performed my first 12 months was like this 12 months. We adapt yearly. We see what different groups are doing. We see what we are able to do higher.” We’re experimenting with bizarre choices. We’re attempting new defenses. For instance, it is getting greater yearly.

Georgian assistant coach Tiffany Creamer, who performs for Van Fleet at GSU, at present performs on the AVP Tour and brings the newest developments from the professionals to the Sandy Panthers. Van Fleet and Creamer appear to be tagging the staff in virtually each side of this system, and their chemistry lifts the gamers which were overtaken by the Energy 5 faculties.

What else spins the wheels?

Protection is a primary GSU and doesn’t cheat. Van Fleet stated his staff has 4 or 5 primary defenses, however will be expanded to 14 or 15 totally different summons, relying on gamers’ consolation degree.

And the consolation degree of the gamers all the time comes first. In a current afternoon follow, Van Fleet spent the final 45 minutes letting the gamers work on no matter they needed.

To work in line with the gamers’ schedules, Van Fleet and Creamer will break up the 16-player roster, coaching two or three, and even 4, a day. A small record is one other function of Van Fleet’s program.

“Beth does her finest to assist everybody, whether or not it is transferring into their condominium and all of the little further issues she does for them, and I believe that is an enormous piece,” Creamer stated. “It is easy to get entangled when you recognize your teaching staff cares about you.

“After I was an actor, I might do something for him as a result of he would do something for me.”

Van Fleet’s thought of ​​being an performing coach reaches all the way in which to the sand, particularly with the tiny Ferary twins.

“We’re taking part in a very totally different sport. We’re not conventional,” Angel stated.

“All of it comes along with taking part in our sport and encourages us to play our sport as a substitute of claiming, ‘No, it’s important to play like all people else’.”

Ferarys is an instance of the hiring construction at GSU.

“We’ll attempt actually onerous to not make absolute statements about somebody and what they will do, and we will attempt actually onerous to not depend somebody out,” Van Fleet stated. “You by no means know when somebody’s lightbulb will activate and turn out to be unstoppable.

“One of many issues we attempt to decide is how hungry somebody is to realize their targets. For instance, the twins got here and stated, ‘We need to win a nationwide championship.’ I stated, ‘Let’s go then.

The tradition of communication, run by athletic coach Hannah Reich and energy and conditioning coach JD Melhorn, extends to the well being and security of gamers. There is a “prep” routine that goes into each stretch and each elevate, and Sandy Panthers largely keep in form.

“I am overcommunicating,” Reich stated. “If an athlete experiences this (doable damage) and we’re forward of him, then we’ll forestall one thing worse from taking place.”

There may be an ingredient that Van Fleet put into the combo to scale back the stress on his gamers. A future within the NCAA Event can be nice and supreme for a lot of faculty athletes, however he does not need them to stay to a title and make it the defining second of their lives.

“We’re a terrific alternative in faculty for individuals who do not need to get to the highest in life,” stated Van Fleet. “So if you wish to prime in faculty, then the State of Georgia might be not the place for you. Georgia State prepares you for excellence and reaching the highest later in life.

“The State of Georgia is a stepping stone. I do not need anybody on our staff to prime the college.”

This is likely one of the explanation why this system is poured onto a concrete basis as a substitute of floating sand.

Georgia State involves a weekend in South Carolina the place the Sandy Panthers beat Division II Tampa 5-0, do the identical to Arizona State, and beat Houston Christian 3-0. Then, the Ferarys beat Quantity 16 South Carolina with a #1 in three to wrap up the right weekend. This victory over the State of Arizona resulted in Van Squadron No. He additionally gave 200.

This weekend, Georgia State heads to Manhattan Seashore for East Meets West. GSU so as No. 7 Loyola Marymount, No. 8 Hawaii, No. 2 USC and No.

The Sandy Panthers are returning house subsequent weekend and UT Martin, No. 17 Stetson is house to South Carolina and the UAB.

Georgia State twins Angel and Bella Ferary/Cole Carter with GSU Athletics

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