Southern Miss Beach Volleyball joins Sun Belt as league adds sport

Southern Miss Beach Volleyball has found a new home as the Sun Belt Conference announced it will add beach volleyball as its 19th sponsored sport, starting with the upcoming 2023 season.

When Southern Miss made the move to the Sun Belt in 2022, Southern Miss Beach Volleyball’s future competition was unclear. Southern Miss entered its first season sponsored under Conference USA  in 2022 after previously competing in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA).

But now, the Sun Belt’s decision to sponsor beach volleyball has made the conference home to all of Southern Miss’ programs.

“We haven’t really had a concrete home, which makes it really hard to plan and guide your program,” Southern Miss Head Coach Shawn Taylor said. “That enthusiasm from the conference- we’re looking forward to it and to what the Sun Belt brings.”

Southern Miss is one of the Sun Belt institutions that sponsor beach volleyball, along with Coastal Carolina, Georgia State and the University of Louisiana Monroe. To round out the new conference, the Sun Belt is adding affiliate members College of Charleston, Mercer, Stephen F. Austin and UNC Wilmington to form the eight-team league.

“When you look at the teams, whether it’s the Sun Belt teams or the affiliates that are going to help comprise this conference, there’s a lot of parity and it’s going to be good, competitive volleyball across the board,” Taylor said.

Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill spoke highly about the sport’s potential to grow and its established prominence in the region, which is something Southern Miss represents as being the first Division One team to host a beach volleyball match in Mississippi when the program was born in 2019.

“Beach volleyball is a great geographic fit for the Sun Belt. There are 176 institutions that sponsor beach volleyball at all levels and 55 of those programs are within the ten-state footprint of the Sun Belt,” Gill said. “I can’t say enough about just how excited we are to start beach volleyball and to really get it going with a sport that is important in our region and growing as fast as it is.”

The Sun Belt will co-host a conference championship with the CCSA from April 27-29, 2023 in Huntsville, Ala. The winner of the championship earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, which will take place in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Southern Miss finished 11-26 last season and 1-3 in C-USA. They begin play in the 2023 FAU March Invitational in Boca Raton, Fla. on Mar. 3.