UAB sand volleyball players Bethanie Thomas and Kiriana Hirini have been selected to play in the 2013 AVCA Nationals Pairs Championship in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Hirini is from New Zealand; Thomas is from Huntsville.
Together the ladies made the transition from indoor six-on-six volleyball to two-on-two sand volleyball.
"We enjoy sand, both of us do," Hirini said. "It's just a whole different environment."
"You just rely on you and you're partner," Thomas said. "You don't have to worry about the five other girls."
And the style of play is much different...
"In sand, it's not so much big kills," Hirini said. "Indoor, everyone is hitting hard. Here, it's smarter and you choose to place the ball."
Even though sand volleyball has only been at UAB for two years, the players say the sport is growing in popularity among the student body.
"Actually, people get really excited about sand volleyball, because they all know about regular volleyball. They're like, sand, and they can sit outside and watch," Thomas said. "It's like a cool environment."
"I think there's 31 teams that play sand volleyball across the country," head coach Hal Messersmith said. "They expect it to more than double next year as an emerging sport."
This UAB duo is one of ten pairs across the country to reach the pairs championships. They're first match will be on Friday.
"We'll be playing against teams from around the country," Thomas said. "So the best teams in California we will be playing."
"Our two girls were very competitive," Messersmith said. "We played a real rough schedule."
The schedule gets tougher when Pairs Championships play begins on May 3 and will run through May 5.
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