American collegiate beach volleyball enters final weeks of 2017 season


Croatian Tea Juric has won 25 beach volleyball matches for Tulane University in New Orleans to rank as one of the 85 foreign players from 28 countries competing for colleges and universities in the United States this spring.

Gulf Shores, USA, April 19, 2017 - With two-plus weeks left in the collegiate season for beach volleyball competition in the United States, international players are making their mark as 85 foreign players from 28 countries were listed on school rosters for the 2017 campaign that started in March and concludes May 5-7 with the NCAA Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala.

With the 2017 campaign marking the sixth season of collegiate beach volleyball play, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) stated that over 1,000 women are participating at 64 institutions. Beach volleyball was added to the emerging sports list by the NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics in 2009.

Led by Canada with 24 players on collegiate rosters this season, beach volleyball performers from four of the five FIVB confederations are participating this spring for four-year schools. The top Canadians performers are Sophie Bukovec (Southern California, 15-5 dual record), Sarah Chase (Saint Mary’s, 16-8), Darby Dunn (Stetson, 21-9), Whitney Follette (Arizona State, 15-9, in video below, No. 12), Emily Maglio (Hawai'i, 25-3), the McNamara twins (Megan and Nicole, UCLA, 23-3) and Taija Thomas (Florida International, 20-9).

USA Olympian Holly McPeak (right) interviews Whitney Follette (left) and Bianca Arellano for the Pac-12 Network after the Arizona State University pair defeated a top-ranked team from the University of Arizona.
All six players compete at schools ranked among the collegiate best squads by the AVCA with defending national champions Southern California (26-0 match record) listed No. 1 followed by UCLA (25-2) at No. 2, Hawai'i (21-5) at No. 6, Florida International (18-10) tied for No. 10, Stetson (15-10) at No. 13, Saint Mary’s (16-7) at No. 16 and Arizona State (12-13) at No. 17.

The McNamaras gained experience by competing in FIVB “age group” events the past four seasons. The Canadian twins have captured medals at three of four international events, including a second-place finish at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games where the McNamaras dropped the finale to Ana Patricia Silva/Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa of Brazil 2-1 (17-21, 21-13, 16-14) in 42 minutes.

Other countries represented on NCAA rosters at the start of the 2017 season are Australia (4 players), Austria (1), Bosnia (1), Brazil (9), China (1), Croatia (3), Cyprus (2), Czech Republic (1), Estonia (1), Germany (4), Guatemala (4), Hungary (1), Italy (2), Latvia (1), Mexico (1), Montenegro (1), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (2), Norway (8), Portugal (1), Puerto Rico (3), Russia (1), Serbia (5), Slovenia (1), Sweden (1) and Switzerland (1).

Estefanie Bethancourt and Natalia Giron of Guatemala, who also competed in the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games along with participating in 10 NORCECA events, are two of the 13 foreign players on the 19-person roster at Florida International. The Panthers are coached by Rita Buck-Crockett, a two-time volleyball Olympian for the United States.

In addition to Bethancourt (20-9 dual record), Giron (19-11) and Thomas, other foreign players on the FIU roster are Margherita Bianchin (Italy, 26-6, pictured below), Lina Bernier (Puerto Rico, 21-9), Mariana Dal Pozzo (Brazil), Imogen Francis (New Zealand), Katie Friesen (Canada, 3-6), Federica Frasca (Italy, 21-5), Dorina Klinger (Austria, 2-6), Mariana Silva (Brazil, 0-1), Anabela Sataric (Switzerland, 21-10) and Helene Thelle (Norway, 16-7).
Other top foreign players competing on American collegiate sand with 20 or more match wins in 2017 are Nele Barber (Germany, Long Beach State, 22-6), Tjasa Kotnik (Croatia, Grand Canyon, 20-3), Kristin Lind (Sweden, Stetson, 21-9) and Tea Juric (Croatia, Tulane, 25-7).

The format for NCAA beach volleyball features the best-of-five doubles matches. The AVCA sanctioned the first four national finals starting in 2012 with the 2016 season marking the "first recognized" NCAA Championship. Pepperdine University captured the 2012 and 2014 AVCA crowns and finished second to Long Beach State University in 2013.

The University of Southern California, the 2015 AVCA champions, defeated Florida State University to capture the inaugural NCAA title in 2016. The event generated approximately $100,000 in ticket sales as Turner Broadcasting aired eight hours of live coverage on their TruTV and TBS networks.

“The vision for collegiate beach volleyball was to create new opportunities for women by piggybacking on the popularity of indoor volleyball,” said AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer. “The ability to start a beach team with crossover talent already on campus allowed athletics directors to phase their investment and gave them a way to still make progress toward equity goals during difficult financial times. This gradual approach also provided time for youth beach programs to develop talent to meet the growing need for specialized beach players.”

Here is a list of foreign players on 2017 NCAA rosters at the start of the 2017 season.

University Arizona
• Olivia Macdonald, junior, Piopio, New Zealand

Arizona State University
• Whitney Follette, senior, St. Albert, Canada

California State University at Bakersfield
• Carol Grasso, senior, São Paulo, Brazil
• Jocelyn Rodriguez, senior, Mexicali, Mexico
• Fabiana Andrade, junior, São Paulo, Brazil
• Marina Sanches, sophomore, São Paulo, Brazil
• Aleksandra Djordjevic, junior, Belgrade, Serbia

University of Central Arkansas
• Megan Nash, sophomore, Ontario, Canada
• Kristine Hjembo, sophomore, Aalesund, Norway

Coastal Carolina University
• Aleksandra Djuric, junior, Belgrade, Serbia
• Natasa Savovic, senior, Belgrade, Serbia
• Tahleia Bishop, graduate student, Whitby, Canada
• Kinga Windisch, freshman, Budapest, Hungary
• Dora Lulic, sophomore, Osijek, Croatia
• Iva Mandic, sophomore, Podgorica, Montenegro

College of Charleston
• Maddie Hills, senior, Toronto, Canada

Florida Atlantic University
• Maja Ristic, senior, Brcko, Bosnia

Florida International University
• Katie Friesen, sophomore, Manitoba, Canada
• Dorina Klinger, sophomore, Feldkirchen, Austria
• Lina Bernier, freshman, San Juan, Puerto Rico
• Taija Thomas, junior, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
• Mariana Dal Pozzo, junior, Toledo, Brazil
• Helene Thelle, freshman, Tolvsrød, Norway
• Natalia Giron, junior, Guatemala City, Guatemala
• Estefanie Bethancourt, junior, Guatemala City, Guatemala
• Margherita Bianchin, sophomore, Treviso, Italy
• Mariana De Paula Silva, junior, São José dos Campos, Brazil
• Federica Frasca, freshman, Rome, Italy
• Anabela Sataric, senior, Biberist, Switzerland
• Imogen Francis, freshman, Auckland, New Zealand

Florida State University
• Eva Torruella, freshman, San Juan, Puerto Rico
• Bozena Culo, freshman, Bjelovar, Croatia
• Molly McBain, freshman, Toronto, Canada

Georgia State University
• Georgia Johnson, freshman, Brisbane, Australia

Grand Canyon University
• Tjasa Kotnik, senior, Ljubljana, Slovenia

University of Hawai'i at Moana
• Emily Maglio, sophomore, Coquitlam, Canada

Jacksonville University
• Jizzyan Gesualdo, senior, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Jacksonville State University
• Charis Ludtke, juniore, Hamburg, Germany
• Jae-Lyn Visscher, sophomore, St. Alberta, Canada

Long Beach State University
• Nele Barber, junior, Berlin, Germany
• Anete Brinke, junior, Riga, Latvia
• Zoi Konstantopoulou, sophomore, Limassol, Cyprus
• Kjersti Norveel, freshman, Tonsberg, Norway
• YiZhi Xue, freshman, Nanjing, China

University of Louisiana at Monroe
• Claire Crossfield, junior, Calgary, Canada
• Grace Convey, freshman, Brisbane, Australia
• Ana Ribeiro, senior, Villa Nova de Gai, Portugal

Loyola Marymount University
• Sara Kovac, sophomore, Niagara Falls, CanadaLouisiana State University
• Mandi Orellana, junior, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Mercer University
• Marina Chavez, junior, Guatemala City, Guatemala

University New Mexico
• Lise Rugland, senior, Tananger, Norway

University of New Orleans
• Brooklyn Frank, senior, Saskatoon, Canada
• Cara Sander, junior, Wiesbaden, Germany

University of North Florida
• Katarina Raicevic, junior, Belgrade, Serbia

University of Portland
• Djurdjina Milovic, senior, Lazarevac, Serbia

Saint Mary’s College
• Sarah Chase, freshman, Campbell River, B.C., Canada

University San Francisco
• Tyna Adamcikova, freshman, Opava, Czech Republic
• Nora Buvarp Lavik, junior, Tonsberg, Norway
• Montana Green, sophomore, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
• Trish Koutsoukos, freshman, Sydney, Australia
• Marjolijn Oskam, junior, Bussum, Netherlands

San Jose State University
• Luiza Andrade, sophomore, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
• Giulia Gávio, sophomore, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
• Nandyala Gama, junior, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
• Mariana Mantellato, sophomore, Sao Paolo, Brazil
• Laura Parts, freshman, Parnu, Estonia

Santa Clara University
• Natasha Calkins, sophomore, Calgary, Alberta

Stanford University
• Tami Alade, sophomore, Sherwood Park, Canada
• Ivana Vanjak, junior, Bad Soden, Germany

Stetson University
• Kristin Lind, senior, Tierp, Sweden
• Maggie Skjelbred, graduate student, Bodo, Norway
• Sunniva Helland-Hansen, freshman, Øystese, Norway
• Darby Dunn, freshman, South Surrey, Canada
• Julie Varga, sophomore, Fredrikstad, Norway
• Katey Merksamer, freshman, Stouffville, Canada

Tulane University
• Ally Frank, senior, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
• Tea Juric, senior, Kastel Stari, Croatia

University of Alabama at Birmingham
• Katarina Jovicic, graduate student, Toronto, Canada
• Erika Zembyla, junior, Nicosia, Cyprus

University of California at Los Angeles
• Megan McNamara, sophomore, Vancouver, Canada
• Nicole McNamara, sophomore, Vancouver, Canada

University of Southern California
• Sophie Bukovec, senior, Ontario, Canada

University of Utah
• Lauren Sproule, freshman, Lethbridge, Canada

University of Tennessee at Martin
• Lean, Kelly, Junior, Victoria, Australia

University of Washington
• Maria Bogomolova, freshman, Saint Petersburg, Russia