SERVING NOTICE: Horizon High beach volleyball, power on sand

The Lady Hawks beach volleyball team is undefeated so far in its second season as an established team. They’re hungry for more.

Camaraderie goes a long way within the Horizon High School beach volleyball team, and it shows on the court.
Camaraderie goes a long way within the Horizon High School beach volleyball team, and it shows on the court.
Photo by Andrea Mujica
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The Horizon High School girls varsity beach volleyball team has had a strong start to its 2022-23 season as the team currently has an overall season record of 4-0. 

Head beach volleyball coach Earnest Rittenhouse attributes all the success of the season to the versatility and ability that his players show on the court. 

“We have some good players (whose) skills translate well into the sand,” he said. “The mental toughness, being able to play in the weather, those kinds of things — they are good at (them).”

To maintain skills on check throughout the season, the team  focuses on some of the fundamentals during daily practices — Monday through Friday.

“Serving and passing is always huge; it’s a big part of the beach game, and it also is a big part of indoor volleyball,” Rittenhouse said. “Jumping helps for the leaping ability. Jumping out of the sand can be very difficult, but that makes for stronger legs for indoor. And then, the read. Being able to read (because) there are only two players on each side (of the net).” 

Senior Hannah Pridgeon, 17, said her ability to read the ball has improved tenfold thanks to playing beach. 

“It’s helped me read the ball and be better at moving,” she said. “In indoor, you have more players to help you out, but in beach, you have to put that on yourself and move for the ball, and always keep the ball in play — so, ball control.” 

The team enjoys a nice and relaxed practice atmosphere — Rittenhouse usually plays upbeat music if not classic oldies — to motivate and encourage the girls to leave everything on the sand every single day. 

“The day before a match, whenever we have a practice, (Rittenhouse) will make us play mini scrimmages to seven,” said senior Hailey Cappleman, 18. “It’s just such a fun way to get us to compete and to get us ready for the next day (and) prepare us. It just makes sure that we are doing what we need to do and getting our job done and that we are prepared for the next day.” 


Most of the players on the Lady Hawks beach volleyball team also play during the indoor volleyball season. That contributes to the way all players are able to connect with one another on the sand. 

“I love being a part of this team, because of everybody in it,” Cappleman said. “The (team) is so welcoming, and most of the girls are from our high school indoor team, so I’m really comfortable with all of them.” 

Beach volleyball is played in pairs, and trust between partners is critical. 

“Communication with my partner is always a big thing in helping us win any match,” Cappleman said. “But, when we are in practice, we try to stay very disciplined in our practices, and we try to maintain like a very competitive attitude whenever we are doing mini scrimmages against each other.” 

However, the game of beach volleyball not only relies on communication and trust but also strategy. 

“They are really ... smart players,” Rittenhouse said. “They play with a strategy in their head at all times. They don’t just kind of go out and see what happens. They have that mindset that they’re going to make it happen, and I think that helps them play beyond just the bump, set, pass skills, but the thinking process as they play.”

This is the second year the NCAA has recognized beach volleyball as one of its sports and Rittenhouse believes the girls can benefit from their playing time .

“It’s kind of nice for the girls to have this opportunity because sometimes someone who is 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10 and has great all-around skills doesn’t necessarily find a specific spot indoors, where it’s a really specialized game,” he said. “But out on the beach, they can go … and prove themselves, win tournaments and win matches and earn themselves (college) scholarships opportunities.” 

After last year’s season — Horizon was crowned district runners-up — the Lady Hawks have high expectations for this year.

“We should be able to do that again,” Rittenhouse said. “(We have) a little more experience, a little more sand play.”



Andrea Mujica

Staff writer Andrea Mujica covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. When she’s not on the sidelines, you can find Andrea coaching rowers at the Orlando Area Rowing Society in Windermere.

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