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Beyond the Game: 'Beach Bears' making waves

UCA beach volleyball team (KATV Photo)

No beach? No problem. The "Beach Bears" are still making waves.

In their first season, the UCA beach volleyball team (yes, beach volleyball) finished 14-3.

"It does surprise me," head coach Jeni Jones Chatman said with a smile.

"The question I get asked the most when we tell them we have beach volleyball and that I coach it is, where's there a beach in Arkansas and do they wear bikinis?"

The UCA beach volleyball team is the only one of its kind in the state and one of only 53 in the country.

The team held its first-ever home tournament this weekend. Adjacent to a wooded nature preserve and behind a physical plant, the school found a corner of campus to transform into a tropical paradise. There's sand, sun - even tiki huts. It simply feels out of place.

"I feel like I'm actually at the beach," sophomore Haley Tippett said.

More impressive than the setting, however, is the team itself. Many of the players transitioned from indoor volleyball.

"The first part of it is getting your sand legs and actually being able to move on this surface," Chatman said.

"There's so much more strategy out here than there is inside," said Tippett.

Despite the program being in its infancy and an obvious lack of a beach, their only losses were to ranked teams.

"It's really exciting because no one really expected us to do that," Tippett said.

Almost as surprising - and exciting - as the existence of the team at all.

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