USM beach volleyball facility set
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - The way University of Southern Mississippi coach Stephanie Radecki has it figured, there's not a better time to be involved with Lady Eagles volleyball.
The indoor season will get underway, as usual, in late summer, when USM hosts the Southern Miss Classic at Reed Green Coliseum on Aug. 24-25.
By then, construction on a new, $6 million Wellness Center just east of the coliseum that will house the program in the future should be in its third month with a completion date set for July 2019.
Just to the south, between the construction site and the Payne Center, awaits the recently-completed three courts for beach volleyball, an addition which will make its debut this spring as the athletic program's 17th sport.
"One of the big reasons I was interested in the position was because of the excitement with the new facilities, the beach program, and the new indoor facility, so it's a great time to be part of Southern Miss volleyball," said Radecki, who compiled a 326-154 record in 14 seasons at the University of North Alabama before being hired at USM in January.
"Just the fact that our administrators have put a huge emphasis on our facilities for our student-athletes, I think that's amazing."
The $250,000 beach volleyball project, funded through private donations, expanded an existing recreational outdoor court, including new netting, new fencing and a special grade of sand.
"I've learned a lot about sand that I previously did not know," USM athletic director Jon Gilbert said. "This is a very high-quality sand. This is not the sand you would see down (on the beach) in Biloxi. This is actually the sand that would be more in tune with a high-end golf course bunker, much like an Augusta National. It's that type of sand.
"We think it's one of the finest beach volleyball facilities in the Southeast."
Radecki said the addition of beach volleyball and the construction of a new indoor facility will give USM volleyball a boost.
"It's a huge asset," Radecki said. "Just for the incoming players to see that volleyball is a focus and that everyone wants us to be successful and have given our student-athletes all the resources they need to be successful."
Along with Texas Christian University, the Lady Eagles will begin competition in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association. The 10-team league includes College of Charleston, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida State University, Georgia State University, Louisiana State University, Tulane University, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of North Carolina-Wilmington and the University of South Carolina.
"It is more a beach volleyball-specific conference," Gilbert said. "I would like it too how you see crew and hockey conferences, where they cross divisional lines where conferences have come together to form a conference because of the uniqueness of the sport."
Beach volleyball consists of five, two-player teams. The schedule will primarily feature USM competing in tournaments and invitationals, though Gilbert said the Lady Eagles also would play some head-to-head matches as well.
Radecki, who will coach both indoor and beach volleyball, said most of the players for the inaugural season will come from the indoor program. On an expected 14-woman roster, only two players will be devoted exclusively to beach volleyball.
"There will be a lot (of crossover), with it being a beginning program, so we'll have quite a few players who play both," she said. "The goal is to eventually lower that number."
Radecki said she was looking forward to lighting the candle on her first season in Hattiesburg.
"We have quite a few starters from last year and a significant senior class, so we're really excited," Radecki said. "We do have high expectations. I do think it's realistic that we would compete for a conference championship and hopefully a (spot) in the NCAA Tournament and represent Southern Miss extremely well.
"I feel really good headed into the first season. This team has been amazing to work with this spring and I'm really looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish this fall."
Copyright WDAM 2018. All Rights Reserved.