Georgia State assistant sand volleyball coach and former professional beach volleyball player, Beth Van Fleet, will head to London to experience the beach volleyball gold medal matches from August 6-12. After competing on the pro tour for eight-years (2003-10), Van Fleet returned to Atlanta to help develop the sand volleyball program at GSU. Along with her London-bound red, white and blue gear, she's also taking an American flag that was flown over the White House to support Team USA.
Van Fleet has been helping prepare Georgia State with its start-up NCAA sand volleyball team that will begin play this spring. In the last year, the program has signed recruits from all over the country, from Alaska to Florida, California to New Jersey, Michigan to Texas, Ohio to Arizona, as well as Georgia.
Beach Volleyball at the Olympics is the most highly-sought ticket, price-wise, this year in London and is played in the shadows of Buckingham Palace. The fast-paced, entertaining sport made its debut in 1996 at the Olympics here in Atlanta. "That was actually one of the biggest factors in my decision to attend Georgia State in 1995, knowing that sport and the Olympics were being held in Atlanta," Van Fleet said. "Unfortunately, I headed home to Tampa during the summer. Instead of volunteering for events, I watched the Games with my family on tv. I still kick myself for leaving Atlanta that summer."
But, Van Fleet and her Georgia State teammates still got a little flavor of the Olympic spirit when she returned to school in August. Following the Olympics, Atlanta hosted The Paralymics Games from August 16-25, and the GSU volleyball team volunteered as hosts and drivers to the athletes. "Spending time with the Paralympic volleyball players, I began to grasp the pure strength of the human spirit," she remembers. "Watching their first match, we gave these athletes every obvious excuse 'He didn't make that dig, but he made a good effort'. By the medal rounds, we were jumping out of our seats yelling at the same guy to 'dive for it'. The Paralympians had transformed our perceptions and expectations in a very short time. They didn't place limits on their abilities, so neither could we."
After graduating from GSU in 1999 with a marketing degree, Van Fleet started playing in local grass and sand volleyball tournaments for fun. It wasn't long before the volleyball "bug" set in and she and her GSU teammate, Amber (Davis) Ramga, decided to take a shot at becoming professional beach volleyball players. The pair moved to San Diego in 2003 and began the rigorous qualifying process. The talented volleyball player competed in more than 80 career AVP events in the US and abroad, earning five top-10 finishes, and ranking as high as No. 26 on the tour. During her career, she competed against the current Olympic team of Jen Kessy and April Ross five times. "Jen and April are fearless, physical competitors. Playing against them was always challenging... and humbling. I'm excited to track their progress over the next two weeks and would love to see them or Misty and Kerri in the finals."
"August is going to be an incredible month! We head for the Olympics on the 6th and return to Atlanta on the 12th. Several days later, Georgia State will welcome our first-ever sand volleyball players to campus," Van Fleet noted.
GeorgiaStateSports.com will get updates from Van Fleet in August and report regularly from London.
Former volleyball captain Marissa Levasseur Havens is also off to London to work the Olympics. Click here for that story.
Former soccer captain Christa Mann is in London, working in her full-time job with the United State Olympic Committee staff. Click here for that story.