LakePoint, Ga. – The Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) announced the addition of College of Charleston and UNC Wilmington to the sport of beach volleyball, expanding the conference to 10 members for the spring 2017 championship. The Cougar program started in 2012 and has been an independent beach volleyball program for the past five seasons, while the Seahawks became the first NCAA Division I member in North Carolina to sponsor beach volleyball in 2015-16.
The two programs join the CCSA, which enters its second season of beach volleyball in 2017, and will compete against some of the top beach volleyball programs in the country. Florida State, the inaugural CCSA Beach Volleyball champions, finished runner-up in the first-ever NCAA Beach Volleyball National Championship in 2016. Georgia State also earned a bid to the national championship after finishing runner-up in the CCSA Championship last season.
"We are really excited about joining the CCSA this spring. It is an outstanding group of beach programs that all play at the highest level." said College of Charleston Head Coach Jason Kepner. " I want to thank our AD Joe Hull, SWA Laura Lageman and the CCSA for all of their hard work to give us this opportunity."
College of Charleston AD Joe Hull added, "The College of Charleston is very pleased to join the CCSA in the sport of beach volleyball. We were one of the first programs in the nation to start a beach volleyball program as an emerging women's sport, played in the inaugural AVCA Final Four and are very pleased with the genuine progress that has been made. We are excited to take the next step in our evolution by joining a quality conference and look forward to the competition."
CCSA Executive Director Mike Hagen expressed his excitement about adding two more programs to the conference. "The CCSA is thrilled to welcome two outstanding programs to beach volleyball in College of Charleston and UNC Wilmington. Through continued collaboration, additional student-athletes will have the opportunity to participate in a championship and be recognized for their athletic and academic achievements. We look forward to great competition with the Cougars and Seahawks in the CCSA."
UNC Wilmington head coach Amy Bambenek is also looking forward to the opportunity of competing for championships in the new conference. "This is a tremendous opportunity to elevate our beach program and compete annually for a championship and down the road hopefully an NCAA tournament bid," said Coach Bambenek. "The rivalries created from being in a conference are extremely helpful in bringing out the competitive edge in our student-athletes, and also establishing UNCW as a top program in the Southeast region."
Seahawks athletic director Jimmy Bass added, "We're excited to join a strong conference and give our student-athletes an opportunity to compete for a championship."
Beach Volleyball became the 90th championship sponsored by the NCAA in 2015-16 after being officially recognized as an NCAA sport for 2011-12. The first NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama, was hosted by CCSA member UAB. The creation of CCSA Beach Volleyball provides student-athletes the opportunity to compete for conference honors and championships. The NCAA does not currently offer automatic qualification (AQ) into the beach volleyball championship for conference winners (a two-year championship history is required), but the CCSA will be in position to qualify for an AQ should they be offered in 2018.
The CCSA, an NCAA Division I conference, formed in 2007 as a partnership among swimming and diving programs in the ASUN Conference, Big South Conference, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Southern Conference to provide championship opportunities for the men's and women's swimming and diving student-athletes. Conference growth in swimming and diving now shows 15 institutions with competitors from eight separate Division I multisport conferences. With the addition of beach volleyball, the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association now boasts 23 member institutions with participants from 11 different NCAA Division I multisport conferences.