With the athletic department just now entering its third year of existence, it’s not often one can describe a Westcliff athletic program as Old Guard, but, when it comes to Men’s Beach Volleyball, the Warriors are anything but the new kids on the block.
Westcliff University is located just minutes from the Pacific Ocean and several legendary Southern California beaches, so it stands to reason programs like Beach Volleyball thrive in Irvine. But Men’s Beach Volleyball as a collegiate sport is just now beginning to take shape.
In fact, Westcliff was one of the first collegiate Men’s Beach Volleyball programs ever instituted, which gives it a distinct advantage in the acquisition of talent.
“Recruiting was super exciting for the past few months,” Men’s Beach Volleyball head coach Kenny Ma said. “It’s great being one of the first universities in the entire nation to have a Men’s Beach Volleyball program.
“We have picked up some big-name recruits.”
Perhaps the biggest name on the list is Dane Johnson, a well-rounded player who excels defensively and is tremendous on the net.
Johnson earned his AAA rating in 2019 and represented Team USA in Amsterdam, where he won a Gold Medal.
“Dane brings a wealth of beach volleyball experience and success to the program,” Ma said. “We are expecting him to come in and make an impact on our program from Day 1.”
Another big name on the beach this season will be Charles Belvin, who comes to Westcliff by way of the indoor game and the LA Blaze of the National Volleyball Association.
“Charles is a very physical athlete who will dominate on the net,” Ma said. “He is newer to the sand but has a lot of potential. We expect him to grow exponentially and begin to dominate as he moves forward.”
A new name to the beach scene, but someone Warrior indoor fans will no doubt be aware of, is Ghie Lubrica, who will compete for this first time on the sand for Ma this fall.
Lubrica was an integral part of the Men’s Indoor Volleyball season a year ago at opposite, and he is expected to bring the same fire to the beach game.
“He is a very crafty athlete,” Ma said. “He has great ball control. Ghie has a very heavy arm, which makes him unstoppable offensively when mixing in his shots.”
Ma says that Lubrica’s competitive fire will make an immediate impact on the team, and he will no doubt take on a leadership role as one of Ma’s vested veterans.
Ma says the Warriors, on the whole, are a more experienced group than they were a year ago. Westcliff added 12 new athletes to the roster, and a number of them hail from Junior College programs.
At times it has been hard scheduling matches because of the lack of beach volleyball programs at the collegiate level, but Ma says a number of indoor programs associated with the Cal Pac are looking to set up beach matches.
They include Hope International, Simpson, Benedictine Mesa, St. Katherine’s and Arizona Christian.
“Our goal this year is to host a Collegiate Men’s Beach Volleyball Tournament to increase exposure for the sport,” Ma said.
Part of the reason for the program’s success on the recruiting trail has been Ma himself, as well as his experienced group of assistant coaches.
Ma played indoor at volleyball star factory Golden West College in Huntington Beach, and his reputation as one of the brightest volleyball minds in Southern California precedes him.
“Our coaching staff thrives by knowing each athlete on a personal level,” Ma said. “We truly care about each of our athletes and are open for them to come to with any issues.”
Ma preaches the value of mutual respect with his players, which allows his staff to have tough conversations and push their athletes to compete at the highest level possible.
“We want our athletes to care more about team success than their personal success,” Ma said. “We will have a very talented and competitive team.”
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in many plans this year, and Men’s Beach Volleyball is no exception.
As of now, the fall season remains in doubt and could be delayed.
When matches do return, however, Ma and his crew will be ready.
“Our athletes and coaches are hungry to get back on the sand,” he said. “We’ve learned that we can’t take the ability to compete for granted.”
As for the future, whenever it may resume normally, one thing is absolutely certain: Westcliff Men’s Beach Volleyball will be leading the pack.
“We are very excited for the future,” Ma said. “I believe we are on the right track and helping to pioneer the sport into the mainstream of college athletics.”
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tag(s): Westcliff University