ASU hires beach volleyball pro as new head coach

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                </div>  Stevie Mussie is wasting little time in laying the foundation for her tenure as head coach of the Arizona State women’s volleyball program.  Hired a little over three months […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Stevie Mussie is wasting little time in laying the foundation for her tenure as head coach of the Arizona State women’s volleyball program.  Hired a little over three months ago, Mussie added a couple of assistant coaches and has now taken a big load off her shoulders with the hire of a head coach for her beach volleyball program.

Mussie will direct both indoor volleyball and the beach volleyball program that was added to the sports line-up three seasons ago, but has hired a permanent head coach for the sand program.  Mussie will serve as overall director for the entire volleyball program.

Brad Keenan, a prominent name in the sport at the college and professional levels, was introduced last week as the new beach volleyball head honcho.

Mussie’s predecessor, Jason Watson, took on both programs when the school inserted the beach volleyball program into its sports offerings in July of 2013, and this past season Jacquelyn Bunker served as interim beach coach, leading the program to a 12-13 record in its third season.

The Sand Devils, seeded No. 5 in the Pac-12 Championships, closed the season by beating No. 8 Oregon and then wrapping with a 5-0 loss to Arizona.

Keenan, 34, was a four-time AVCA All-American and two-time National Player of the Year at Pepperdine where he was a middle blocker from 2000-03.  He finished his career as the record holder in blocks and service aces and was inducted into the Pepperdine Hall of Fame in 2014.

After college, the  6’8″ athlete joined the AVP professional beach tour and was named Rookie of the Year in 2006, Most Improved Player in 2007, and best server for the 2014 season.

His coaching experience has been limited to one season as a graduate assistant coach at Corcordia University in 2015 and numerous volunteer coaching roles, most notably as a volunteer coach with the USA women’s national team.

Mussie was obviously impressed with his experience: “His volleyball resume has more than prepared him to lead our beach program. Throughout the interview process, his name kept coming up, and people at the highest levels of volleyball across the country spoke very highly of him and his abilities.”

Keenan’s first order of business will likely be recruiting.  There were already four Pac-12 teams that had established a sand program before ASU signed on, and got a jump on recruiting for the new sport.  And that doesn’t include Arizona, which committed to adding the program six months ahead of the Sun Devils.

UofA took an aggressive approach to the program, building a four-court layout with beach-quality sand that is 18 inches deep, across the street from McKale Center. ASU announced plans for adding on-campus courts, but has been using the courts at the PERA Club, a private club for Salt River Project employees and their families, conveniently located a few miles north of the main campus in Tempe.

The sport exploded in popularity following the last Olympic Games when beach volleyball got a lot of media attention.  The difference between the indoor and sand programs are minimal.  In the sand game, the courts are smaller and the ball is bigger and lighter.  Scoring is based on a best-of-three format instead of the standard five sets in the indoor game, and there are five two-player teams that are ranked by ability.

Bianca Arellano and Whitney Follette, a junior duo, finished the 2016 season with 18 wins, the most in the short history of the program, and Frances Giedraitis became the second player in program history to record more than 20 career wins.

Arellano and Giedraitis were recruited out of the local talent pool, Arellano coming from Xavier Prep in Phoenix and Giedraitis growing up in Tucson.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)