Athletics adds new sports

Junior Jayden Davila-McClary sets the ball to senior Jessica Austin in a match against Gulf South Conference foe Union Oct. 20, 2017. UNA plans to add beach volleyball and women’s golf to athletics starting recruiting in 2018-19 athletic season, while indoor and outdoor track will end.

The North Alabama athletics department is introducing two new sports and dropping two others for the 2018-19 athletic season.

The Lions will add women’s golf and beach volleyball, while women’s indoor and outdoor track will be discontinued after the spring 2018 semester.

Women’s golf and beach volleyball’s growth in popularity was one of the many reasons for the switch, said athletic director Mark Linder.

UNA began its women’s indoor and outdoor track in 2013, making the sport only 5-years-old at its end.

The addition of beach volleyball and women’s golf, and the discontinuation of women’s indoor and outdoor track will keep the UNA’s sponsored athletic programs to 14 teams.

Linder said changing sports is going to help Lions athletics in the long run.

“We feel the addition of women’s golf and beach volleyball will allow us to be more competitive at the Division I level than we would have been in women’s indoor and outdoor track,” Linder said. “Women’s golf meets a regional interest for graduating high school seniors in our area. We have a very strong golfing community, and we expect our women’s golf program to flourish.”

Linder said another reason for the change is the emergence of beach volleyball’s popularity.

“Beach volleyball is an emerging NCAA sport that has gained a lot of interest and popularity in recent years,” Linder said. “With the success of our volleyball program and its popularity, we feel we can have a competitive and successful beach program, as well.”

Coaching additions will be minimal as two coaches already at UNA will transition into coaching two sports.

Lions volleyball coach Stephanie Radecki was expected to coach the beach volleyball team in the spring after the indoor volleyball season finishes, but Radecki recently took the head coaching job at Southern Mississippi.

The Lions indoor volleyball team finished 27-8 this past season along with being the Gulf South Conference runner-up.

UNA’s assistant golf coach Neil Seif will be the new women’s golf coach at the start of the 2018-19 season. Seif will start recruiting athletes for the team soon.

Sophomore Sarah Tipton said adding two new sports will help with bringing in new students.

“It is good because it will open up more scholarship opportunities,” Tipton said. “It will also allow the female student athlete population at UNA to grow.”

Scholarships will increase because track scholarships were added in with cross country.

Junior Anna Mahan said the new sports will bring excitement to athletics.

“Beach volleyball will definitely bring some fun, new entertainment to the athletic department that the university is not used too,” she said. “Women’s golf will open up a lot of cool new opportunities, as well.”

The Lions will begin the new chapter of women’s athletics starting in 2018-19 with recruiting. The new sports will also get to start their seasons in the Lions first season in Division I.