DeLand, Fla. - The Stetson sand volleyball program will make school history on Thursday when it steps onto the courts at the Aspire Higher March Mayhem Clash of the Collegians event in Winter Haven, Florida. The Hatters open their inaugural season and mark the competition debut of Stetson's 16th varsity sport.
Part of the growing expansion of Stetson Athletics that will also see women's lacrosse debut next spring and football the following autumn, sand volleyball is also the newest college sport in the nation, officially sanctioned for the first time this spring. Stetson University is among 15 NCAA Division I institutions (plus NAIA member Webber International) to get in on the ground floor of what promises to be a burgeoning trend in 21st century women's athletics.
Head Coach Tim Loesch, Assistant Coach Courtney Taubert-Materazzi and Volunteer Assistant Coach Nick Holmes will have 15 players to work with to establish the program. Pulling double duty for the Hatters from this past fall's indoor team are senior Kaylee Ream (Venice, Fla.), junior Alisha Hoffman (Leesburg, Fla.), sophomores Katie DiGirolamo (Bradenton, Fla.) and Kaley Melville (New Germany, Minn.) along with the freshman duo of Savannah Byl (Bradenton, Fla.) and Taylor Story (Plano, Texas).
Graduate student Jesse Tucker (DeFuniak Springs, Fla.) joins the sand volleyball team after four undergraduate seasons as a utility player on the Stetson softball team. She is joined in the newcomer column by senior Ashley Rutherford (Satsuma, Fla.) (briefly herself an indoor walk-on in 2009) and freshmen Julie Bassett (Wadsworth, Ohio), Claudia Kalin (Valparaiso, Ind.), Taylor Kennedy (Boca Raton, Fla.), Stephanie Marin (Naples, Fla.), Hannah Norris (Homewood, Ala.), Maren Rygh (Tonsberg, Norway) and Alexa Stonish (Stony Brook, N.Y.). Stonish's older sister Sam played for the Stetson indoor volleyball team in 2008 and 2009.
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