ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Avei Logoleo. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
I was not a cheerleader.
No, I was not a soccer player.
I wasn’t on the Blazer dance team.
And I didn’t play the tuba in the UAB marching band.
But most of you would be surprised to learn about my unique UAB experience.
UAB beach volleyball has been my entire life for the past four years. It has been such a blessing watching the program grow from a small group of girls to a full team on the rise.
Before I tell you about how incredible this program is, I would like to answer the questions I get most frequently when people hear “UAB Beach Volleyball.”
“Yes, UAB does have a beach volleyball team!”
The first season for the Blazers was in 2012. Back then, the team consisted of all indoor volleyball players. UAB was actually the first school to ever host a sanctioned collegiate beach volleyball match in 2012 when we welcomed Florida State to Birmingham.
Our courts were located next to the BBVA Compass Field and we are currently getting a brand-new facility where the old Barnes and Noble building is next to the ROTC building and across the street from the Football Operations Center.
And yes! Like the Olympics, we play two-on-two. We put together five pairs to play another schools’ five pairs. In order to win as a team, we must have at least three out of our five pairs win.
I was fortunate enough to join the team as the first ever beach-only recruit in the fall of 2014 under head coach Bailey Coleman. My freshman year I was one of five beach only players. Three of the girls were fifth year seniors who had come to UAB as indoor players and one came in as a freshman with me. As you could imagine, practices during this time were very personalized and the five of us got PLENTY of reps in our two to three-hour practices. Of course, five people do not complete a beach roster, so when indoor season ended, seven players joined us to complete the team.
As most people know, UAB is a part of Conference USA. However, since there were not enough teams in C-USA with beach volleyball and the sport was new and not NCAA sanctioned at first, the beach team was not a part of any conference my freshman year.
Instead of having a team National Championship, pairs all across the nation were selected to go to the AVCA Pairs Championship. My freshman year, we had one pair selected to participate in the tournament: Kiriana Hirini and Bethany Thomas. This was their third-straight trip to the tournament! I was the luckiest freshman in the world to have such an incredible senior class to look up to.
My sophomore year we had seven beach-only girls and a Conference to compete in! We joined the Costal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) along with Florida State, Florida Atlantic, FIU, Georgia State, LSU, South Carolina and Tulane. This conference is now one of the best in the nation, and features 12 teams total with the addition of College of Charleston, Southern Miss, TCU and UNC Wilmington.
The growth of the program continued as there were 10 beach-only girls during my junior year under interim head coach, Ashley Hardee. The team doubled in a span of two years. In addition, this team earned the programs first-ever conference tournament win again the College of Charleston.
My final year as a Beach Volleyball Blazer was an emotional one to say the least. Kyra Iannone was named our new head coach and she came in and lit a fire on our team. Her background in beach volleyball, coupled with her love for each individual girl has helped create a new culture for the program. Under her first season at UAB, we beat South Carolina who was the #8 team in the nation.
One other thing people may not know about UAB Beach Volleyball is that UAB annually hosts the NCAA Tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala. Beach Volleyball officially became an NCAA sanctioned sport in 2016 in which a team champion is decided, and we have hosted the first three NCAA Tournaments and will continue to do so at least through 2022.
It has been an honor to be a part of a team that started with five players and grew to a full a roster. The team will only continue to improve and shock the Beach Volleyball World with more insane wins, while demonstrating the culture that Coach Kyra has created in just one year.
The future is very bright for the UAB Beach Volleyball team. Make sure you bring your sunglasses out to our new facility in the Spring of 2019 to watch next year’s Blazers continue to make history!
Avei Logoleo was the first-ever beach-only recruit at UAB and finished her career with the second most wins in program history. The Nashville, Tenn. native graduated in the spring of 2018 with a degree in Kinesiology and will begin her Master’s degree in Communications this coming fall.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
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