Tampa Bay space courting volleyball historical past because it prepares for NCAA Championship


By Joey Johnston for the NCAA

From begin to end, the Tampa Bay space has develop into the epicenter of NCAA Division I volleyball this season.

The timing couldn’t be extra excellent.

When the Tampa Bay Sports activities Fee hosted the Street 2 Tampa Bay Invitational in late August — bringing collectively the Florida Gators, Penn State Nittany Lions, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and host South Florida Bulls — the two-night tip-off occasion attracted greater than 13,500 followers to downtown Tampa and the USF campus.

It was a prelude to the NCAA Volleyball Championship, which heads to Tampa’s Amalie Area on December 14-17. TBSC govt director Rob Higgins stated the internet hosting group will likely be “laser-focused’’ on setting the NCAA Volleyball championship match attendance file (surpassing the 18,755 in 2021 when Wisconsin defeated Nebraska in Columbus, Ohio).

“We love the faculty volleyball trajectory and this season needs to be a outstanding journey,’’ Higgins stated. “For our group to be the backdrop for the beginning and end of the season, it’s actually phenomenal.’’

And actually historic.

A couple of days after the season started in Tampa, the Nebraska Cornhuskers hosted “Volleyball Day In Nebraska,’’ an outside double-header at Memorial Stadium that attracted 92,003 followers, the most important crowd to witness a girls’s sports activities occasion. Tickets had been $25 for adults, however reached as a lot as $400 on the secondary market.

In December, the championship match will likely be proven on ABC-TV for the primary time. As a substitute of the normal Saturday evening window, the ultimate will likely be performed on Sunday afternoon, possible offering unprecedented publicity.

“Including ABC to the lineup will improve our efforts to develop a sport with unbelievable expertise and an already extraordinarily loyal fanbase,’’ ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions Dan Margulis stated.

In all, Margulis stated greater than 2,500 NCAA Division I girls’s volleyball matches will likely be proven this season on ESPN platforms, together with the streaming ESPN+ service.

“That is what each lady earlier than us dreamed of for thus a few years — and we get to reside it out,’’ Penn State center blocker Taylor Trammell stated. “I can’t even consider (what occurred) in Nebraska. And by being on ABC, I believe it exhibits that this sport is right here to remain.’’

“I believe we’re dwelling in the very best time for ladies’s volleyball,’’ Florida coach Mary Sensible stated. “The variety of eyes watching us each in individual and on TV, it has by no means been this excessive. We’re a distinct segment sport and we’ve constructed this on the backs of … nobody. That’s what I consider volleyball coaches are probably the most happy with, how we obtained to the place we’re at present. We constructed this.’’

When Tampa Bay hosted its first NCAA Volleyball Championship, the championship match was one of many sport’s all-time spectacles. Penn State, down two units, rallied to defeat Texas (and MVP Destinee Hooker, nonetheless one of many world’s prime gamers). The Nittany Lions captured their third straight nationwide championship and gained this system’s 102nd consecutive match.

It was among the many most spine-tingling and riveting occasions ever staged in a Tampa Bay space that has hosted dozens of nationally famend championships.

And now, from begin to end, Tampa Bay will give faculty volleyball one other likelihood to shine. TBSC vice chairman of occasions Claire Lessinger, a former faculty volleyball participant and head coach, stated her group hopes to do extra than simply host a big-time sporting competitors. It desires to vary the sport and assist to speed up its growth.

The TBSC has established two mantras:

Setting The Commonplace — In line with the TBSC’s normal objective, the mission is to stage probably the most profitable NCAA Volleyball Championship ever and set a championship-game attendance file.

Rising The Recreation — Each occasion and each initiative will look to reveal volleyball to a wider viewers, whereas persevering with the sport’s upward trajectory. (Be taught extra at growthegametb.com)

Tampa Bay’s Native Organizing Group has assembled a regional volleyball advertising committee — its slogan is “ALL-IN’’ — and it contains constituents from faculties, excessive colleges, golf equipment, sports activities services, USA Volleyball, AAU Volleyball, the Professional Volleyball Federation and the Skilled Affiliation of Volleyball Officers.

“For these volleyball of us who don’t get to the (NCAA) championships frequently, the thrill degree may be very excessive, ” stated volleyball official Donna Carter, a Tampa native who performed at Clemson College. “It’s all anybody can speak about. For individuals who do go to the championships recurrently, there’s much more pleasure.

“It’s an opportunity to host and present all of our mates from across the nation what an incredible place Tampa is to reside and go to. We’re all exchanging concepts about the best way to make our guests take pleasure in their expertise to the fullest. All of us need it to be sold-out, enjoyable and memorable.’’

Volleyball has develop into the fastest-growing and No. 1 sport for feminine participation. Significantly within the state of Florida, volleyball has skyrocketed.

OTVA — a volleyball membership with services in Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville — has constantly been the highest membership in Florida and among the many prime three nationally whereas profitable 44 nationwide championships and sending greater than 400 gamers to varsity scholarships.

The AAU Junior Nationals — the world’s largest youth event — are historically held in Orlando.

In response to knowledge from the Nationwide Federation of State Excessive Faculty Associations, following the 2021-22 college yr, Florida was ranked fourth nationally in high-school women volleyball staff participation (19,006 athletes, 694 packages) behind No. 1 Texas (51,275 athletes, 1,387 packages), No. 2 California (45,534/1,463) and No. 3 Illinois (21,990/676).

At every locale, new followers and younger athletes are discovering what the game’s insiders have recognized for many years. Volleyball is fascinating and enjoyable.

“Each one that watches their first collegiate volleyball match says afterward that it’s the good factor and much more enjoyable than they anticipated,’’ Florida libero Elli McKissock stated. “If you see the lengthy rallies and hustle and energy, you simply don’t see many issues with that a lot love and that a lot coronary heart.’’

“Volleyball is fast-paced, it’s electrical and it’s extremely thrilling,’’ Higgins stated. “Each single play ends in a consequence and you may’t say that about all sports activities. And these are among the finest athletes on this planet — from their means to leap and canopy and serve and hit. It’s actually a spectacle — and it’s nice for households and followers of all ages.’’

The gamers and coaches — the members — have a message for the spectators.

Come be a part of us!

“I believe followers will likely be enticed by the vitality, the quick tempo of the sport, the fixed scoring and the vitality of aggressive protection,’’ USF coach Jolene Shepardson stated. “The physicality that our younger girls deliver, the athleticism and camaraderie, it’s all nice. If individuals haven’t been uncovered to volleyball a lot, they’re going to see younger girls who’re nice athletes and linked with pleasure.’’

As Sensible indicated, the very best time is now. From begin to end, the Tampa Bay space is courting volleyball historical past.



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