Olympic gold medalist excited about UNCW’s sand volleyball plans

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — To say Kerri Walsh Jennings has had a big part in helping increase the popularity of sand volleyball is probably an understatement. She and playing partner Misty May Treanor have combined to win the last three Olympic gold medals in the sport, and Walsh Jennings has also become a star on the professional circuit.

The sport’s rise has spread from its roots on the beaches of California across the country to Wilmington, where UNCW plans to add a sand volleyball team next year.

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“That’s like music to my ears,” Walsh Jennings said this morning in Wilmington. Jennings and her husband Casey, another professional beach volleyball star, are among the celebrity guests at this weekend’s Azalea Festival.

“It makes me so proud,” she said. “Our sport has grown so much over the years, and I love that. I’ve been part of that. But I love beach volleyball with all my heart. I want it to be global, which it is, but the fact that it’s now part of the NCAA program now is just fantastic, and again, it warms my heart.”

Beyond UNCW’s future team, sand volleyball has long been popular in Wilmington. Several facilities and groups have sprouted up over the year catering to playing sand volleyball.