Pretty much anywhere in Kern County is about two hours from the nearest beach right? I mean if you wanted surf and sand you most likely have to drive about two hours to meet your beach-combing needs.
That all changed last week when we brought the beach to Bakersfield, opening the new CSUB sand volleyball courts with a home match against the University of Oregon.
Sand volleyball is an emerging NCAA sport with more than 50 schools in the nation fielding teams which compete in two-on-two pairings. Five to seven doubles teams compete, the team with the most wins, wins the match.
After CSUB's team played on the road all of last season and five matches this year, members finally got to come home to their own courts. Beautiful sand brought in from the beaches of Southern California transformed what was once just a grassy knoll into three beach volleyball courts that look as if they belonged in Malibu, not in the middle of Bakersfield.
The events are laid back, music plays during competitions, an announcer keeps the fans seated between all three courts updated on the action happening all around them, and there's a lot of action.
Last week's opener had it all; a dramatic matchup of five doubles teams which all came down to the number-one pairing on center court. Better yet, that match came down to the third and final set. Bakersfield's duo of Molly O'Hagan and Debora Araujo managed to hold off a talented Oregon team led by multiple-sport All-American Liz Brenner. The 'Runners effectively served around Brenner's brute strength and ability, while making just enough plays to win the dramatic set 15-12, thus winning the match for Bakersfield 3-2.
It was new and exciting, the facility looks great and one can honestly suspend reality for long enough and feel like you're actually just yards from the surf and not hundreds of miles.
While the win was important for CSUB, especially over a program like Oregon, the excitement on the student-athletes' faces to finally be playing at home was priceless.
The courts will see two more days of home action this weekend as Bakersfield hosts San Jose State on Friday at 4 p.m. and USC at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
San Jose State, by the way, is coached by former Roadrunners head sand volleyball head coach Aaron Shepardson who was instrumental in the new program and new facility before heading north for the same opportunity with the Spartans.
The sport of beach volleyball has gone through several rebirths since it came on the scene in the 1990s, most recently it was the last couple Summer Olympic Games and now it appears the intercollegiate athletics is giving it the next shot in the arm while exposing the sport to a whole new audience; even those who have created a beautiful faux-beach, hundreds of miles away from the real thing.
I'll tell you this much, we sure don't have a seagull problem.
COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Director of New Media and Broadcasting for California State University, Bakersfield.