WILMINGTON — The first time was the charm for the Marvin Ridge volleyball duo of Carly Owens and Madi Graveline.
With Marvin Ridge playing high school beach volleyball for the first time this spring, Owens and Graveline cruised to the NCHSSVA Girls Pairs State Championship on May 19 at Capt’n Bills Backyard Grill and beach volleyball venue.
The next day, the Marvin Ridge girls finished as the team state runner-up after falling to Wilmington Ashley High in the finals.
Owens and Graveline won their pool to advance to the individual championship round and then won two close matches to win the state championship. They defeated Julianna Askew and Trinity Rosales of Ashely High in the pairs finals.
Owens will continue her volleyball career later this year at South Carolina, where she will play for the Gamecocks’ beach volleyball team. Graveline is a junior.
Marvin Ridge’s Chloe Barbu and Paige Buttrey also qualified for the state tournament in pairs and they advanced to the quarterfinals before being eliminated.
Owens and Graveline won their semifinal and championship matches in the deciding set in the best-of-3 format. The pairs competition on May 19 was delayed for over three hours after several inches of rain fell in the area.
“Beach volleyball is a lot about strategy, seeing the court and being smart about your shots,” Marvin Ridge coach Joy Owens said. “Aggressive serving is key too, and I think (Owens and Graveline) figured out where to place the ball in order to win the match. It was back-and-forth. It was as close as it could be and they really dug deep. They won their final match 15-13.”
Well over 50 schools played beach volleyball this spring in North Carolina and that number is expected to grow as the sport becomes more popular. Beach volleyball is an NCAA-sanctioned sport that just completed its third year and the NCAA just recently signed a five-year contract with ESPN to televise the eight-team national championships each spring in Gulf Shores, Ala.
“It’s growing,” Joy Owens said. “College beach volleyball is growing like crazy.”
Owens thinks the sport will grow in popularity at Marvin Ridge and even more players will come out for the team in the coming years. Beach volleyball is considered a club sport in the state, but soon could become a sanctioned team sport by the NCHSAA.
“From our indoor program, we have several girls that play beach volleyball in the offseason,” Owens said. “We had 12 girls at the interest meeting this year and we ended up having seven on the team.”