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HANNAH EDELMANHANNAH EDELMAN RULES THE BEACH COURT

Like many girls growing up on Hilton Head Island, Hannah Edelman loved spending time at the beach.

She also loved playing volleyball.

Putting the two together changed her life.

Edelman grew up playing indoor volleyball and dreamed of playing in college, but when beach volleyball began to rise in popularity as a college sport, she opted to chase her dreams with her toes planted firmly in the sand.

“The culture just really drew me toward playing beach,” said Edelman, who is entering her senior season playing for the University of South Carolina beach volleyball team. “There’s just a different joy. I love being outside and I hated being stuck in the gym for hours at a time.”

The transition began when Edelman was in eighth grade and played in her first beach tournament on Hilton Head. She was attracted to the beach version of the sport because she idolized Misty May-Treanor, who despite being only 5-foot-9 — short by professional volleyball standards — won three Olympic gold medals and retired as one of the most successful female beach volleyball players in history.

By the time Edelman was a sophomore at Hilton Head Island High School, she had begun to realize her own vertically-challenged stature — she’s only 5-foot-5 — might limit her potential to play for a major college program, at least in the indoor game. But it didn’t hold her back on the sand courts on Coligny Beach.

I SEE SUCH AN OPPORTUNITY FOR KIDS WHO ARE IN HIGH SCHOOL WHO PLAY INDOOR VOLLEYBALL AND DON’T THINK THEY COULD MAKE A CAREER OUT OF IT.

HANNAH EDELMAN2She quit playing indoor club volleyball but continued to excel for the Seahawks, winning state Player of the Year honors and started spending more time at the beach. That same year, the coaches of South Carolina’s fledgling beach volleyball program ran a camp on Hilton Head, and Edelman caught their eye.

“I was kind of at the right age at the right time, when the game was just growing a little bit,” Edelman said.

She joined the team as a walk-on and paid her dues, going 2-1 in varsity matches and enjoying success in exhibitions as a freshman and compiling an 8-3 record before an injury ended her sophomore campaign. Edelman eventually earned a scholarship and rebounded from the injury to go 20-10 in 2019, including a 7-2 mark in the No. 2 position.

She has been on two teams that made the eight-team national championship tournament, and because of the nature of beach volleyball, she’s involved in every point, something that almost certainly wouldn’t be true if she were playing the indoor game and limited to playing on the back row.

Now Edelman is hoping to help the game grow here in the Palmetto State. Of the 20 players on the Gamecocks’ 2020 roster, only Edelman and one other are from South Carolina. When she’s home, she helps her mother run the Hilton Head Beach Volleyball Academy, providing something aspiring players like Edelman didn’t have when they were growing up.

“I see such an opportunity for kids who are in high school who play indoor volleyball and don’t think they could make a career out of it,” Edelman said. “The culture is so cool. I feel like so many people are missing out on it and I want it to be known.”