Starting in 2017, beach volleyball will become a sanctioned sport as part of the Sunshine Sports Athletic Conference.
The partnership between the SSAC and USA Volleyball was announced Wednesday on the heels of a sprawling education bill that was passed into law on April 14 by Gov. Rick Scott that allows private and public schools to join other athletic conferences outside the Florida High School Athletic Association without penalty.
“We believe that partnering with the Florida Region of USA Volleyball is a logical choice, as they are the established expert in this sport and will help give the SSAC and its members a great platform to grow beach volleyball,” said Stuart Weiss, President of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference.
The league’s spring season will mirror the NCAA requirements for matches and abide by USA Volleyball rules and regulations. Games will consist of a minimum of three pairs of girls per team in matches that will cover the best two out of three matches.
“Since I’ve been down here for eight years, beach volleyball has done nothing but grow,” said Bishop Verot coach Jeremy Ridgeo, whose team won its 17th district championship in 18 seasons this fall. “It’s a really good idea. It grows the game. I think it will add a lot to the area.”
The SSAC high school beach volleyball championships will be held in April 2017 at Hickory Point Beach located in Tavares, Florida.
“I think schools (in the FHSAA) will consider it,” Ridgeo said. “What you will see, I think, is schools waiting for others who will do it. My guess is that top volleyball schools like Bishop Verot, ECS and schools in Collier County will jump on it because it gives girls opportunities.
“It make sense. It gives them opportunities for college scholarships,” he added. “That can’t be bad.”
The Sunshine State Athletic Conference currently offers football and basketball to 29 schools in the state.
North Fort Myers senior midfielder Madison Lampkins signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her soccer career at the Air Force Academy in a ceremony at the school Wednesday.
The regular signing period began last week and continues until Aug. 1.
Lampkins was a first-team News-Press all-area selection her junior year after scoring 31 goals and tallying 17 assists. As a senior, she totaled five goals and seven assists as a part of a North team that went 20-5-1 and reached a regional final where it fell to Plantation American Heritage.
“This opportunity makes all the hard work worth it as I have been wanting to attend the Air Force Academy and play for coach Lawrence Friend since I first visited the school as an eighth-grader,” Lampkins said. “The exciting part is that this is a reward for both my academic and soccer accomplishments.”
Three other Red Knights solidified their futures.
Shortstop Jessica Valerius will play at Division II Lenoir-Rhyne (North Carolina) University. She is hitting .506 with three home runs and 30 RBI this season for the 21-2 Red Knights.
Boys soccer player Cole Hempfling signed with Crown (Minnesota) College and basketball player Laney Trammell will attend Green Mountain (Vermont) College.
Crume headlines SFCA signees
Following a solid senior season, Southwest Florida Christian Academy’s Aiden Crume inked to play basketball at Greenville (Illinois) College.
Crume averaged 14 points per game for the 25-4 Kings who won a district title.
Garrett Pyncknel, a fullback and linebacker, signed with Carthage (Wisconsin) College after a senior season where he gained over 200 rushing yards with four touchdowns and made 34 tackles.
Soccer player Erek Lehman will play at Wisconsin Lutheran next fall.
•Naples 2, Estero 1: Josh Winckowski was the winning pitcher and notched 11 strikeouts for Naples.