You don’t need a beach to play sand volleyball, although the lack of oceanfront probably explains why the sport hasn’t traditionally had much of a following in North Texas.
Still, Highland Park junior Jordan Westendorff is part of a growing contingent of high school volleyball players who have taken up the outdoor game and found the combination to be mutually beneficial.
So she has spent the past three summers traveling to events on both coasts, taking on some of the top young sand volleyball players in the country. In July, she and her partner earned third place in the 16-and-under age group in a national tournament in California.
Westendorff was introduced to the sport by one of her former indoor club coaches, who was a regular player at Sandbar Cantina in Deep Ellum.
“I played for a year and I wasn’t very good, but then I started liking it,” said Westendorff, who didn’t take up the indoor game until she was in seventh grade. “It was a struggle for me because it didn’t come naturally. I fell in love with getting better at the sport.”
She credits her affinity for sand volleyball in part to a trip she took with her family to Hermosa Beach, Calif., where she was able to watch Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh train in person.
She admits sand volleyball is not for everyone, having to contend with elements such as sun, heat, and wind. And it requires players essentially to play every position rather than specializing. Yet Westendorff said she’s noticed how the outdoor game complements her skills as an outside hitter for the Lady Scots.
“It really increases your vertical [jump] a lot and helps you move quicker,” she said. “It makes you be a stronger mental player.”
It makes for a busy schedule. The school season lasts from August until November, and club season ends in late June. Both overlap with the sand season, which typically runs from March to September.
HP head coach Michael Dearman said he’s had players transition to sand volleyball after high school, but never take on both simultaneously. It’s something he’d recommend to other players, as well.
“The sand makes you feel like you’ve got ankle weights on. She’s very explosive off the floor and she hits the ball very hard,” said Dearman, who played sand volleyball in college. “The outdoor game really challenges you. There’s no question that it’s helped her.”