Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
During her four years as a setter for USC's indoor volleyball team, senior Kendall Bateman achieved just about as much as anyone could ever want to at the collegiate level.
Her Trojan resume reads two-time All-American, two trips to the Final Four, a 2011 All-AVCA First-Team honor and the school record for assists (4,510). But, rather than relish in the aftermath of her illustrious career during her final semester at Troy, Bateman (pictured below by ESPN.com) has decided to take her talents to the beach, as a member of USC's inaugural sand volleyball team.
"It's kind of surreal to me," said Bateman, who grew up playing sand volleyball every summer in Manhattan Beach. "I am proud that USC is the only school in the Pac-12 to have a team, because I think it lets girls know that there are so many opportunities to play some form of collegiate athletics at this university."
As Mick Haley's top setter over the past three years, Bateman grew accustomed to her role as floor general and facilitator for the likes of Alex Jupiter and Lauren Williams. With her transition to the sand game, however, the senior has been forced to quickly adjust to the two-on-two format.
And, while Bateman is the only senior on the team, she will not be relied on to assume the majority of the leadership responsibilities, as former USC outside hitter and current graduate student Geena Urango will be the 2012 team captain.
"It's a completely different world for me," said Bateman. "It's not six-on-six, so you really have to be proficient in every aspect of the game. Our coach Anna Collier has been really patient with me, but I think this is really forcing me to become a better player. It's also nice being able to go out there and learn without having to worry about leading, because Geena [Urango] is a great captain for us."
It doesn't hurt either that Bateman and her 13 teammates get to work on their craft daily 20 minutes away from the USC campus at the Annenberg House in Santa Monica.
"Playing on the beach is refreshing to say the least," said Bateman. "After four years of playing indoors day after day, having a chance to practice outside under the Southern California sun is really nice. It really brings me back."
While Bateman (pictured right by Patch.com) believes the inaugural team's main responsibility is to serve as a liaison for the sport both on campus and off it, ultimately she is still searching for the one thing that has eluded her at USC.
"I just want to win a national championship," said Bateman. "I tried for four years on the indoor side, and now I get a chance in the sand. It's really a great opportunity for all of us girls on the indoor team to make an impact out here. Even though the season hasn't begun yet, we're already having a blast."
The sand team will kick off their first season on March 16 in Santa Monica with a tournament against Pepperdine, Florida State and Long Beach State.