It was the spring of 2012 and the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) was the first organization in the country to offer high school beach volleyball. About a dozen teams stepped forward to compete that first year and there were no programs located in Southern Arizona. Only five teams made up the first official playoff bracket. Further, the sport was called “Sand Volleyball” due to the obvious absence of a true “beach.”
Then the tide started to come in.
Xavier was the first power program in the state and the Gators brought home the first six state Division I championships in state history with an incredible 71-1 record, with the only loss coming to Scottsdale Prep in 2015. Still, the sport started to grow and teams such as Ironwood Ridge and Salpointe started competitive programs in the south.
By 2016, there were enough teams to form two divisions and the University of Arizona became the first college in the country to host a high school beach volleyball tournament – the CatBox Classic – played on high-grade sand and in a facility beyond the means of many high school programs.
The Amphitheater School District used the facility at Arizona as a template and the district built three college-level facilities at Ironwood Ridge, Canyon del Oro and Amphitheater and the three schools used those facilities for competition last spring.
Oh, and the sport switched over to “Beach Volleyball.”
Marana became the fifth school from Southern Arizona to compete this spring and there are now five sections and 33 teams in Division I and five sections and 31 teams in Division II. The sport might overtake boys volleyball in as little as five years…..
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at