When you think of the best places to play beach volleyball, New York may not be the hottest choice on the list.
But that never stopped St. Francis Preparatory School volleyball player Stephanie Bogda from loving the game. Bogda, who plays both indoor and outdoor, was attracted to the sand version after watching some women in Long Beach play when she was 11. She would return occasionally to the beach to watch the players for two years and ask tips about the game, until eventually they asked her to play.
Now Bogda, 17, who has trained and competed for years in sand volleyball, earned a four-year scholarship with Division I University of New Orleans to play sand volleyball, despite the long odds, being from a state where the temperature gets to be near freezing for half of the year. She recently verbally committed to the school.
“We’re extremely proud of her because she had to overcome a lot,” said Bogda’s mother, Patricia. “She has had to sacrifice a lot while her friends were playing. She always had this goal and she would never let anything stop her.”
Beach volleyball, which has two players per team rather than six, has been on a wave of growth that stems from the Beijing Olympics, according to many published reports.
The NCAA added Division I sand volleyball to its list of varsity programs in 2011. Now, more than 40 NCAA four-year schools sponsor the sport, according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Bogda continues to play indoor volleyball on travel teams and with St. Francis Prep. But during the summer she partakes in sand volleyball competitions in other states. She also has a rigorous daily training schedule that includes running, two-hour conditioning and personal mentoring from professional sand players, including Brazilian Priscilla Lima.
Besides volleyball, Bogda likes to draw and paint in her free time, so she believes she will major in art in at the University of New Orleans.
But of course she has her eyes set on becoming a professional volleyball player and perhaps playing in a future Olympics.
With a year remaining before college games begin, Bogda plans to work harder than ever to prove when she steps in the sand in New Orleans that she belongs there.
“I’m going to spend a lot of this year on the beach,” Bogda said. “People say ‘oh you’re committed, you can relax now.’ Absolutely not. I need to be ready for college.”