GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum athletic program will welcome its 21st intercollegiate sport in 2018-19 with the addition of women's beach volleyball announced vice president of student success and athletics Doug Jones.
Tusculum women's beach volleyball will begin competition in spring 2019 with an anticipated roster size of 14 student-athletes. The Pioneers will compete as a NCAA independent member and will join fellow Tennessee schools Carson-Newman and Lincoln Memorial who sponsor the sport.
"This is an exciting time for Tusculum athletics," said Jones. "The emergence of beach volleyball in the NCAA has opened up a wide array of opportunities for current and future student-athletes. The sport continues to grow at a very rapid rate and we are very proud to be a part of it."
"Beach volleyball will provide additional opportunities for our students to participate in intercollegiate athletics," said Tusculum president Dr. James Hurley. "The addition of beach volleyball creates a vibrant and varied campus setting that values diversity and diverse activities, while encouraging involvement and interaction outside the classroom."
Ashton Hippenstiel, Tusculum's assistant women's indoor volleyball coach for the past three years, has been named the head coach of the Pioneers newest sport. Current indoor volleyball head coach Michael Robinson, will serve as an assistant coach for the beach program.
Hippenstiel, a native of Yucaipa, California, possesses a wealth of coaching experience at both the collegiate and club level and is a former NCAA Division I and II player where he was setter at Cal State Northridge and King University. During his final season at King, he ranked 30th in the country with his 6.99 assists per set average while leading the Tornado with his 610 total helpers. He led KU with 75 blocks and his 0.85 blocks per set average ranked ninth in Conference Carolinas.
"I am honored to have been named the head coach of the Tusculum beach volleyball program," said Hippenstiel. "I would imagine that any time you have the opportunity to build something from the ground-up it is a pretty special experience. I am very thankful to have the support of our administration and eager to get started."
Hippenstiel has been coaching at the club level for seven years and is a member of the Match Point AVCA Mentee Program. He graduated from King in 2014 with his Bachelor of Arts degree and is completing his master's degree in talent development from Tusculum.
Beach volleyball is the fastest-growing NCAA sport with 69 colleges and universities sponsoring it currently.
Team competitions consist of five pairs of players competing in two out of three sets, with the first team to win three of the five matches as the winner. On average, a single match lasts 35-50 minutes. The NCAA does not plan to name individual or pair champions in beach volleyball, as a team champion is crowned following the championships segment at the conclusion of the season.
In 2009, Division I and Division II members named beach volleyball an emerging sport for women, supported by the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics. The American Volleyball Coaches Association has conducted a collegiate beach volleyball tournament since 2012 and did so until the NCAA championship in 2016.
Beach volleyball becomes the 21st sponsored NCAA sport and the seventh added in the last five years by the Pioneers.
Tusculum sponsors 10 men's sports including baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and indoor and outdoor track & field. Eleven women's intercollegiate sports are offered, including: basketball, beach volleyball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, indoor volleyball, and indoor and outdoor track & field. The sport of STUNT is also being offered and will be in its first season of competition this spring.