Mater Dei beach volleyball officially becomes a CIF sport


Courtesy of Mater Dei Athletics

ON THE SAND: Senior Giselle Groe continues her final season of Beach Volleyball at Mater Dei and, having played as varsity athlete since freshman year, hopes to continue to play in college. Though getting into a new sport is not easy, Giselle offers motivation to anyone who is interested in starting beach volleyball. “Honestly, just have fun! Beach volleyball is a great place to make friends and it’s an excuse to always go to the beach,” Groe said. “Don’t be afraid to try new things. You never know what you will be good at.”

Beach volleyball has been a spring club sport at Mater Dei for many years, with both boys and girls participating in league matches, but it has not been a CIF-recognized sport. The California Interscholastic Foundation, however, declared that beach volleyball would be a CIF-sanctioned sport as of 2022. The Mater Dei team was able to participate in CIF competitions starting in the spring 2022 season.

Sophomore Julia Garcia joined the MD Beach Volleyball Team last year. Having experienced beach volleyball as a club sport and now a CIF sanctioned sport, she has noticed a few differences this season.

“Now that beach volleyball is a [CIF] sport, there is a [larger group] of girls and we can bond more as [a] team,” Garcia said.

Garcia has been playing both indoor and outdoor volleyball for a total of five years and expresses affinity for both types.

“I love playing with all my teammates and getting to know what skills they have [so] I can help them succeed in the matches we play and scrimmages we compete in,” Garcia said.

Senior Giselle Groe has been playing volleyball since she was twelve years old and now is a varsity athlete in both indoor volleyball and beach volleyball. Since beach volleyball has two players per team, instead of the five for indoor volleyball, Groe emphasizes the importance of partner dynamics.

“Trust and communication is so important when figuring out your dynamic with your partner,” Groe said. “Once you establish communication, the game is so fluid that everything else ends up working out.”

Groe has been playing volleyball for Mater Dei since her freshman year. Mater Dei’s noteworthy sports program drew Groe to the school initially. Her time on the two teams has allowed her to pick up on a lot of strategies.

“I absolutely adore playing on the team and would not trade it in for anything,” Groe said. “The Beach Volleyball Team was one of the reasons I came to Mater Dei. Making varsity as a freshman really helped me pave my way here. When I play, some strategies I have are to control what we can control. I tend to focus on what we can do, rather than focusing on the other side of the net.”

The Beach Volleyball Team’s coach, Jacqueline Wood, has been playing volleyball since she was in elementary school. Her experiences as a long time player are a key reason for the team’s success and acknowledgement as an official CIF sport.

“When I [eventually] got to high school my sister was already on the team and encouraged me to come tryout,” Wood said. “From then on I found a love for this game and continued to play in college at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. I made the All-Conference team and held a record for single season blocks. After graduation I began to play beach volleyball competitively. I played all over the United States and won a couple tournaments. I got into coaching in 2010, the year after I graduated from college.”

Coach Wood was a huge asset in getting beach volleyball to become a recognized CIF sport. With a lot of communicating and hard work, Wood saw her work pay off.

“Being vocal about the sports future, discussing possibilities with other coaches and the continual growth of the sport, not just at Mater Dei, but all other schools in Southern California [helped us],” Wood said. “In 2019, the talking finally turned into actions. Though they weren’t significant enough, they were a step in the right direction. From then on I spoke to every coach I could about adding beach volleyball to their activities and that created a snowball effect up and down the state and more and more schools began to add beach volleyball as a sport.”

Mater Dei has helped Coach Wood with some of these opportunities and she is grateful for the community that Mater Dei has created. Going from an athlete to a coach is not an easy transition. Mater Dei has helped by providing a space of kindness and sportsmanship.

“I love the atmosphere that Mater Dei has created for their students,” Wood said. “There is a family-like camaraderie not just with the students but with the faculty alike. I know that here at Mater Dei I can make a difference for my student athletes. Not only to coach them to excel and improve at their sport but guiding them to become better teammates, classmates, and the confidence to take on the world after high school.”