Some LSU players are facing new challenges including sand, rain and having to be outside in the recent frigid cold temperatures.
LSU players Olivia Beyer, Toni Rodriguez and Katie Kampen are making the transition from indoor volleyball in the warm PMAC to beach volleyball in the new sandy facility.
All three seniors played volleyball since their freshman year at LSU. Beyer started 22 matches her freshman season. Rodriguez played every match her senior season with 16 starts. Kampen also played in every match this season. This is the first time any of the women have played beach volleyball on a collegiate level.
“The skills are essentially the same,” Kampen said. “You’re serving, you’re passing, you’re hitting, but the strategy is completely different. The mindset is very different.”
Rodriguez finished her senior season with 238 kills, second highest on the team. She received a season-high of 19 kills against SMU. She was placed on the SMU Doubletree Classic All-Tournament Team. She finished with a total of 46 blocks, 11 aces and 12 double-digit kill matches.
Beyer played middle blocker for majority of her time indoors. She tied for third on kills her senior season. She hit an average of 1.78 kills per set. She also put up 12 solo blocks, second highest on the team.
“This has been my dream come true,” Beyer said. “I love volleyball, so this is like you get to do all of the aspects of volleyball more than I got to as a middle blocker. I love it. I’m living my dream.”
Kampen’s passion shows on and off court, considering she was placed on the SEC Community Service Team. She played in 113 sets this season. She averaged 1.76 digs per set. Her season-high of digs in a match was 17 against Ole Miss. She even finished with 20 kills despite being a defensive specialist.
“Being a Louisiana native, we knew that LSU beach was something special,” Kampen said. “I’ve always liked beach volleyball and if given the opportunity, I really wanted to take advantage of it. There’s so much more to it than just doing it for volleyball. Honestly, it was just kind of a way to expand the sport I love.”
There is not much difference between indoor and outdoor volleyball other than the number of players on court and some scoring differences. Regardless, jumping into a new sport is never easy. Over the past few months the new players have been trying to get acclimated to their new surroundings.
“If you're having a bad day you will be exposed,” Beyer said. “Whereas indoor volleyball, you can hide a little better behind five other people. Just a little better.”
Kampen also mentioned the new outdoor elements. Recent weather in Baton Rouge has been rather frigid, making practices tougher. The matches and practices rely on decent weather. Kampen said having practice cancelled due to rain was something new.
Now the players are coached by Russell Brock, whereas they were previously coached by Fran Flory. The coaches have similar personalities with their passion for the game. However, the coaching techniques are different and it has taken some time to get used to.
“It’s pretty laid back here, not in a bad way, but you just go out and play,” Beyer said. “They’re gonna give you bits and pieces and valuable information. Indoor, it’s like high intensity and super fast-paced and then just a ton of constant information, which is good. Very different, but cool to have different experiences with types of coaching.”
LSU beach volleyball has super high hopes for the season. It being their first season on campus, they’re ready for the challenges and opportunities to attempt to make it to the National Championship. They’ll start by competing in the FSU Invitational Feb. 23.
“We have our eyes on conference,” Kampen said. “We have our eyes on the National Championship — but more importantly were focused on tomorrow.”