Athletics launches varsity beach volleyball team

Mary Ellen Enright, assistant volleyball coach
Mary Ellen Enright, WC ’23, assistant volleyball coach, will lead Ƶ's new beach volleyball team.

The Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Department at Ƶ is adding beach volleyball to begin competition in spring 2025, according to Michael Lochstampfor, vice president of athletics and head soccer coach.

“Beach volleyball has been growing in popularity in the United States and around the world since its introduction as an Olympic sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games,” Lochstampfor said. “On the collegiate level, Florida is one of the hotspots for the sport and this proximity eases both recruiting and the travel schedule, making it an ideal sport to introduce at Ƶ.”

There are a handful of collegiate women’s beach volleyball teams at public and private schools in Georgia, including Georgia State University, Mercer University, Berry College, LaGrange College, Truett-McConnell University and Emmanuel University. Ƶ will compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics with teams from Georgia and Florida.

Michael Carter, head volleyball coach at Ƶ, and his assistants are actively recruiting for the team, with training and practice to begin in fall 2024. The team will be separate from the existing indoor volleyball team, and Carter looks to recruit highly skilled athletes as transfer and first-year students to build the roster.

“We’re excited to bring another sport to Ƶ,” Carter said. “Especially when we are able to bring competition on campus with our own facilities, adding more events and activities for all of our students to enjoy is advantageous for Ƶ as a whole.”

Competition initially will be held on the new beach volleyball sand courts at the city of Gainesville’s Roper Park, located a little more than a mile from the historic campus. Plans are to build a competition beach volleyball area at Ƶ in the future.

Carter recently hired Mary Ellen Enright, WC ’23, a former volleyball phenom, as an assistant coach to lead the new team. Formerly the outside hitter for the Golden Tigers, Enright was an NAIA All-American and earned national player of the week honors multiple times during her varsity career. The Cumming, Georgia, native coaches with Carter’s club volleyball team and he calls her an asset to the new program.

“As a former volleyball standout at Ƶ, Mary Ellen brings a wealth of knowledge and experience about the game and the university,”Carter said. “She will be a tremendous asset to the program as we prepare for our first season of competition.”

Ƶ’s varsity athletic programs are housed within The Women’s College, which marks its 145th anniversary this year. Only Women’s College students are offered the opportunity to participate in intercollegiate athletics. Ƶ is a member of the NAIA and the Appalachian Athletic Conference.