Newton High School volleyball players have been to national tournaments before, but junior Maggie Remsberg and senior Taylor Antonowich have done something new for the Railers.
The two competed at the USA Volleyball Junior National Beach Championships in late July in Sister Key, Fla., near Sarasota.
The two finished 6-7 in sets and 2-4-1 in matches overall, reaching the second round of the Bronze bracket.
It was the second time the two competed in the tournament and the first time in 18U open division.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Antonowich said. “It’s something Maggie wants to do in college. We’ve been doing it for the past two years. We stepped up and did the 18s this year. We did the 16s last year. It’s really good competition. Hopefully, me and Maggie can get the attention of the coaches.”
“It was a nice tournament,” Remsberg said. “I think we’re going to try and qualify again. We had an awesome coach we met in Oklahoma City at the qualifier. He helped us with some pointers. We had to adjust to a different game, but it was still volleyball. We did improve a lot. We broke even. We gave it our best shot. Every game, we did a little bit better.”
The duo qualified for nationals with a second-place finish at a qualifier in Oklahoma City. The two played for the Stingray Volleyball Academy out of Oklahoma City, coached by Toriano Lands.
There are only a few beach volleyball facilities in the area where the two could prepare.
“We went to Athletic Park every day for about two weeks,” Antonowich said. “We also had a coach from Oklahoma City. He offered to coach us for nationals. We had a few practices with him before the tournament.”
The two said the sport is something they would like to continue to do in the future.
“We’d like to go back to Florida in the future,” Antonowich said. “If we can qualify, we’ll go back.”
While strategy and the skills needed for beach volleyball are a little different from the indoor game, the two said it was a good preparation for the upcoming high school season, which opens Aug. 26 in the AV-CTL I-II pre-season tournament in Hutchinson.
“It helps with movement and control with the ball,” Antonowich said. “You have to cover a lot more space than you do on the court indoors.”
“It’s control, control, control,” Remsberg said. “That’s the name of the game. It’s placement, defense. You have to cover so much of the court. You have to find your spots. Defense, you have to read their movement.”
Beach volleyball has been an Olympic sport since 1996 and an NCAA sport since 2016. (It was a non-NCAA sport from 2012 to 2015). There are currently about 50 schools sponsoring the sport in five conferences. Most of the schools are on the West Coast and in the South.
“It’s a little bit different to get into,” Remsberg said. “I their putting it in at a lot of schools. It’s a lot of fun. Once you get into it, it draws you in – everytime you touch the ball. It’s just you and your partner. The movement — you never stand around. It’s also really fun to dive into the sand.”