Panama City beach, FL---Absolutely beautiful weather on Saturday not only had the spring breakers happy, but volleyball players, too.
The Gulf Coast indoor team moved outside to the beach to welcome the Florida State sand program for an exhibition tournament that benefits both sides.
The Lady Commodores, in their offseason workout schedule, get a chance to get game experience against an elite program.
"I think they really like the change of pace," said Gulf Coast head coach Kyle Peck. "Getting out of the gym and obviously coming to the beautiful beach and we have the gorgeous day today. We're gonna learn a lot more today than in the month of practice that we've already had. This sport, it takes a lot of experience and there's really no way to learn it than playing against better people, so they really look forward to it and it's a fun day."
The Seminoles, who are ranked 4th in the country, get to experience real beach elements, as they mostly play on sand surfaces.
"The big thing about beach volleyball is you have to learn and strategize against a different type of player every time you come out," said FSU head coach Danalee Corso. "The conditions are different every single time. Winning a tournament, playing four matches in a day is a skill in itself. So we find a lot of value in this event and we're really lucky that coach Peck has continued to do this event and we're planning on coming back next year and every year, as long as I'm around. I love coming down here"
FSU is looking to once again contend for a national championship after making the American Volleyball Coaches Association's Final Four the past two years.
The Noles are using this in-season opportunity to better prepare for their title hunt.
"To win the national title in the pairs is four matches in a day," said coach Corso. "It's kinda like almost running a marathon or a half marathon every week. And honestly, we're a smaller team, we're very technical. But when you're smaller, you have to work harder than taller girls who put the ball away. It's a skill we've got to learn and that's what this environment is for."
GC will continue to practice on the beach and indoors to train for their 2014 season that begins in August.
Indoor and outdoor are two different games, but with only two players on the beach rather than six in the gym, the girls can grow their games by leaps and bounds by playing on the sand.
"You have to pass, you have to set, you have to hit, you have to play defense, you have to block, where the indoor game is a lot more specialized," says coach Peck. "You have to know all your skills out here and some of the girls who haven't played out here before, they're getting an education. It's a good way to get out of the gym, change the pace, learn something new and develop their overall skills or their overall game."