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From left, Sophia Gonzalez and Mary Catherine "MC" Couch, playing for DeSoto Legacy Volleyball, earned a bid to play in their age group at the USA Volleyball National Beach Tour-Junior Championships. The tournament will be July 18-23 in Manhattan Beach, California.

Sand volleyball is starting to make some inroads as a sports option for DeSoto County youngsters. Two young area girls recently set their way toward a national tournament in just their first year of competitive sand volleyball.

You may also know the sport as beach volleyball, and it is likely one of the sports you watch whenever the Summer Olympics are held.

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings have been among the powerhouses of beach volleyball, and their names are among the most notable.

May-Treanor retired after winning three Olympic gold medals, the last of which was in the 2012 Summer Games. Walsh Jennings continued to play professionally.

Now comes Mary Catherine “MC” Couch and Sophia Gonzalez, a pair of girls from DeSoto Legacy Volleyball (DLV), based at the Arena at Southaven. The youngsters won a bid and have qualified to play in the upcoming USA Volleyball National Beach Tour-Junior Championships.

The tournament will be played at Manhattan Beach, California, said DLV Director of Operations/Master Coach Bob Lewis.

“Sand volleyball has grown immensely, especially along the coastal areas, but it’s moved up into the Southern beltway here,” Lewis said. “There’s really no good sand courts in DeSoto County and we haven’t really started a sand program, but several people have asked us to do it.”

Without a quality surface to use, Lewis and DLV still went ahead and worked with interested players. Couch and Gonzalez have moved up to the top of the list.

“We had as many as seven teams,” said Lewis. “Mary Catherine and Sophia are two of our '12s' that are good and have been training with us. They’re a great little partnership. They just clicked, got into regionals and have won a bid for nationals.”

Lewis said those who play sand volleyball have a skill set that is above those who play the more known game on a hard court.

“Sand volleyball is really more for the elite players who are stronger,” Lewis said. “It’s a faster-paced game and it’s more difficult because you have to deal with stability in the sand, wind, rain and such. It’s a really fun game that is not like indoor volleyball at all.”

Lewis added that sand volleyball involves a lot of strategy.

“You have to read what’s on the other side of the net so you can line up properly,” said Lewis. “I played for nine years and I was in the best shape of my life. You really hone your talents on sand. It’s a tough, tough sport.”

It’s not very often players from Mississippi make it to a national tournament like the one Gonzalez and Couch will play in.

“It’s very much in its infancy in this area,” Lewis pointed out. “It’s very rare to have any team going to any kind of national event. It is rare in this region, and we’re working to make strides to improve that. We’re very excited that these two were able to get the bid out of the Delta Region and go to California.”

Lewis noted that he has been working with city officials, who own the Arena, about constructing at least four sand courts at the facility.

“I made a soft presentation to the City Parks and Recreation Department about it,” said Lewis. “They were giving me a push back about cost and security. The cost is taken care of because I have a grant from USA Volleyball and I have a donor for the sand. I’ve built six courts in my past, so it’s not a difficult thing to do.”

SCHEDULE SET: Ole Miss Monday announced its home schedule for the 2019-2020 men’s basketball season. The Rebels play 17 home games, starting with home season opener Nov. 8 against Arkansas State. The Rebels are also playing in the season-opening NIT tournament on Nov. 19 against an opponent still to be determined. Dates for the nine SEC games are still to be announced. Tip-off times have also not been determined as of yet.

HORN LAKE 5K FUNDRAISER: The Horn Lake Touch Down Club presents its second annual First Responders 5K Run/Walk event at Latimer Lakes Park later this month. The fundraiser, called Unity in the Community, will be Saturday, July 20, starting at 8 a.m. Registration and sign-in will begin at 7 a.m. that morning. The club is the booster organization for the Horn Lake High School football program and proceeds will go to the program. The goal is to unite first responders and the community. For more information, email hltouchdownclub@gmail.com.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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