It looked like a typical Santa Barbara day — guys playing volleyball in deep, golden sand on a warm afternoon. But there was something geographically different about this scene. This wasn’t East Beach. In fact, it wasn’t the beach at all. This sand volleyball action was taking place in Hope Ranch at Laguna Blanca School.
Laguna Blanca held the first match on its newly constructed and beautifully designed sand courts on Tuesday, September 16, playing against Santa Barbara High School. The three-court facility, which cost around $96,000, are situated next to the tennis courts that were completed last spring, in the area that used to be the baseball infield — a conversion from the sandlot to sand courts.
Mike Biermann, the Laguna Blanca athletic director, said the idea of putting in sand courts came from boys volleyball coach Dillan Bennett, who is also a AAA-rated beach volleyball player.
“It started when Dillan came up and said, ‘We got a lot of wasted space out there and we don’t have a baseball team anymore,’” said Biermann of the conversation. “We knew it was an up-and-coming sport with the girls playing on the beach [in the spring] and it was just matter of finding a little more space than we had. We basically made the space. We found after measuring 3-4 times that they would fit.”
Biermann also found the money to pay for it. “We had a very generous parent donor that said, ‘If you’re real serious, I’ll fund the courts for you.’ From that point on, it was a go.”
He got the okay from the school administration and the Hope Ranch community, which was a big hurdle to clear. “There was no fight from Hope Ranch at all,” Biermann said. Another parent who owns a construction company donated his time to build it, Biermann said.
Bennett said the reaction from the boys and girls volleyball programs and their supporters was great. “They ate it up,” he said.
Before ground was broken, Bennett sought the advice of Todd Rogers, the 2008 Olympics gold medalist in sand volleyball. “I went out and asked him because he built a sand court in his backyard and he’s very good at putting courts together,” Bennett said. “He has a great vision of things. He knew where to get the sand and what equipment to use. His expertise was very valuable in the process.”
The sand was hauled in from Guadalupe. Biermann said San Marcos and Santa Barbara High have talked to him about what it took to construct the sand courts. Laguna Blanca will now play its matches on campus — the boys in the fall and the girls in the spring.
“We’re not going through the AAU like we used to,” Biermann said. “We’ll schedule are own matches against all the teams in the area and down in the L.A. area. Dillan has a full 10-game schedule. Laguna Blanca previously played in AAU-organized beach tournaments.
While volleyball is his main focus, Bennett pointed out that the sand area will be used by other athletic teams on campus. “There’s nothing we can’t do in the sand,” he said. “The football team can run through it, the soccer team can practice in it. There’s beach volleyball and beach tennis. It’s more of a sand facility rather than a sand volleyball facility.”
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