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Corban University

January 17, 2020

Head Coach Diana Villalpando Spurs Passion for Beach Volleyball in the Pacific Northwest

“The great equalizer.” That’s what Diana Villalpando calls beach volleyball, one of the newest varsity sports to join Corban’s athletic department.

Although indoor volleyball was her primary sport in college—and the sport she’s been assistant coaching for the past several years—Diana fell in love with the beach version of the game through playing recreationally and in local tournaments. She loves the opportunities beach volleyball provides players, beyond what they get to do indoors.

“In indoor, you have a setter, and that’s all they do. Or you have people who play in the back row—your defensive players—and that’s all they do. The front row players only hit. But in beach, you have to be able to do all three in order to be successful. I call beach ‘the great equalizer.’”

Diana explains that beach volleyball gives opportunities to players who might not have them otherwise—or expands their opportunities to use certain skills. “Since I’m only 5’1”, I was better at passing and setting,” Diana says. “But even though I’m not tall, I can still place the ball really well when I do attack. So I found there was more success for me playing beach, where I get to attack and develop some of those other skillsets I wouldn’t necessarily get the opportunity to do in indoor.”

Beach volleyball has also provided an opportunity for volleyball players to stand out in what Diana describes as an increasingly saturated market. “Indoor volleyball numbers are increasing,” says Diana, “so there are more indoor players trying to find x number of spots on teams.” She explains that many indoor athletes are transitioning to playing beach year-round, with the hope that their more specialized skills will open doors for their volleyball career.

Opportunities to play beach volleyball at the collegiate level are on the rise. “One of my passions is seeing beach volleyball more integrated in the Pacific Northwest,” says Diana. Surprisingly, although Oregon lacks the warm beaches and year-round sunshine of other parts of the States, it has an enthusiastic beach volleyball scene. “Oregon actually hosts the largest beach tournament in the nation,” says Diana, referring to the world-famous Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament, where over 1,600 teams come each summer to compete on 170 courts.

The idea that beach volleyball is only played in places like Southern California and Florida is simply a myth. Of the 14 women Diana recruited last year, most have grown up playing in the Pacific Northwest. When it’s cold, “they just bundle up and we go out and play.” From warm leggings to special neoprene “sand socks” that keep players’ feet dry, the athletes have found ways to combat the cooler, rainier weather. “Really, beach volleyball is being played a lot,” says Diana. “There just aren’t as many opportunities at the collegiate level yet in the Pacific Northwest.”

With the leadership of Diana and others, Corban is on the frontlines of expanding beach volleyball at the NAIA level. Currently, Corban is the third university in Oregon to add beach volleyball as a varsity sport (after University of Oregon and University of Portland). However, Corban is the first university to have competition courts on campus. As more teams in the Cascade Collegiate Conference begin to add the sport, Corban will likely become the hub of CCC beach volleyball, inviting guests and competitors on campus to use their brand-new courts.

In the meantime, “We’ll have non-conference matches probably for the first two years while schools in our conference start to add beach,” Diana explains. She predicts that Corban will be competing against several community colleges with beach programs, as well as potentially the University of Oregon and University of Portland. She also anticipates several schools adding a beach season to their current indoor volleyball program. “That’s how a lot of schools operate right now,” she says. “They actually take their indoor players and do a beach season.”

But Corban opted for another route. It was important from the beginning of the program to provide additional opportunities to athletes who might not be able to attend Corban otherwise. By adding a separate beach volleyball program, Corban is providing “another opportunity for young adults to get their education and play a collegiate sport that teaches you so much about life,” Diana says passionately.

Some of the life-changing skills Diana remembers developing during her own volleyball career include building lifelong friendships, balancing various demands on her time, developing self-confidence, and learning how to address failure without giving up. “I had a great experience with college volleyball, and that’s why I fell in love with coaching,” she says. “I wanted to provide that same type of experience to other athletes.”

Diana has already signed several additional women for Fall 2020, and is excited to increase the current roster to approximately 24 athletes, each of whom will have the opportunity to earn a Christ-centered education while playing the sport they love. Diana’s passion and vision—not only for the team at Corban, but for her role in developing beach volleyball as a collegiate sport in Oregon—is evident. “I’m so excited to see what happens this spring,” she says, “because that’s going to give us a huge indicator of what the future has to hold. I’m excited to see how it all plays out.”

Learn more about beach volleyball at Corban at https://corbanwarriors.com/sports/bvb.