FRISCO, Texas – Nine beach volleyball programs will begin competing under the championship oversight of the Southland Conference in 2020, as the league adds its first sport in nearly 20 years. The Southland last added a fully-sponsored sport in 2001-02 when women’s golf was first included in the league’s championships.
Abilene Christian, Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist, New Orleans, Nicholls, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi all sponsor NCAA beach volleyball, with the programs at SHSU, Southeastern and SFA beginning their first competitive seasons in 2020.
While there is no assigned regular-season conference schedule, the nine teams will participate in the inaugural Southland Beach Volleyball Championship, April 17-19, at the Islanders Beach Volleyball Courts in Corpus Christi, Texas. The champion will be decided through an eight-team double elimination event, with a single-elimination play-in match between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, and a single-elimination championship match. Houston Baptist will play host to the 2021 Southland Beach Volleyball Championship.
Beach volleyball features a format consisting of five dual matches, with two players on each team’s No. 1 through No. 5 positions. A doubles team match is won by the pair that wins two sets. The team dual is won by the team that wins the majority of doubles matches (three of five). Dual team matches will be played to decision.
“With the continuing growth of beach volleyball across the NCAA, the Southland is excited to expand its sports sponsorship to provide student-athletes with a championship opportunity,” Southland Commissioner Tom Burnett said.
Beach volleyball officially becomes the league’s 18th sponsored sport, and the tournament results will also factor into the Southland’s All-Sports and Commissioner’s Cup Awards in 2019-20, and the winning team will also participate in the league’s championship ring program like other sports.
The sport made its official NCAA championships debut in 2012, and had 75 teams competing nationally at the conclusion of last season. Although not yet an automatic qualification sport, the 2020 NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship, consisting of eight at-large teams, will be held May 1-3 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Southern Cal won the 2019 NCAA championship.