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Tori Penrod and Emily Krogman: Dynamic duo in the sand

The sand volleyball team runs a drill on setting teammates up for a spike at practice.

Carson McGorry

The sand volleyball team runs a drill on setting teammates up for a spike at practice.

Hayes Rule, Staff Writer

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Six years ago, beach volleyball was not an NCAA-sanctioned sport. But in 2012, 16 schools started a program. Mercer was one of those first 16 teams.

And after four competitive seasons, beach volleyball became the 90th NCAA championship sport in June of 2015.

The sport now features 50 programs and has announced it will host its first Collegiate Beach Volleyball National Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in May.

The Bears, members of the Atlantic Sun, will have a chance to compete for a spot in the national championship.

The duo of junior Tori Penrod and sophomore Emily Krogman have played together in 13 of Mercer’s 14 matches, registering a 9-4 record from the No. 1 seed for the majority of the season.

“I think we work very well together because we communicate,” Krogman said. “We talk a lot during practices about what we need to work on individually and what we need to work on as a pair. We communicate our strategy during the match and during timeouts. We are very open with each other about what we want and how we want to execute it.”

And they’ve executed. The duo’s record is the best on the team this season.

Penrod, the Preseason A-Sun Player of the Year, said the success has been a product of their experience playing as a top seed in the past. The Jupiter, Florida, native played as both No. 1 and 2 as a freshman, finishing 8-14 during the season.

The Bears will have a chance to compete for a spot in the national championship.

Carson McGorry
The Bears will have a chance to compete for a spot in the national championship.

As a sophomore, she played every match in the No. 1 seed with current junior Emma Peel, finishing 8-12 over the course of the season.

“Having experience competing for Mercer in the top seeds the past two years helps us prepare for competition and understand the pressures that come with being the top seed,” Penrod said. “Emily and I also have very similar personalities on the court, and I think that helps make us a strong pairing.”

Krogman does not have the same top-seed experience as Penrod, but she recorded the best winning percentage on the team — 14-6 — last year at the No. 4 seed as a freshman with Erin Brett.

The San Diego, California, native didn’t start playing beach volleyball tournaments until the summer before her junior year of high school. Originally, she did not want to play beach in college.

But her coach suggested she play both indoor and beach and gave Krogman a list of schools that offered beach.

“Mercer was the only school that would let me play both indoor and beach volleyball,” Krogman said. “All of the other schools I was talking to said that I had to choose one over the other. Mercer had a lot of other qualities that I was looking for in a college, and after my visit I fell in love with the campus, with the coaching staff and the rest of the volleyball team.”

But despite Krogman and Penrod’s success together, head coach Damian Elder split the pair for the first time this season in the team’s match against Florida Gulf Coast March 26. After three straight losses, the team’s record had dropped to 6-7.

Krogman said the duo was split to test different pairings.

“As a team we cannot seem to figure out a way to win the match as a whole,” she said. “Right now we are trying new partnerships and different pairings to see if that is what is going to help win the team match for Mercer.”

The Bears dropped to 6-9 on the season after losing to No. 8 Georgia State March 29, marking their fifth straight loss. Penrod and Krogman were once again split, and both lost their match in the outing.

“We are overcoming some key players being out this season and working to find our best lineup to win the Atlantic Sun,” Penrod said. “Almost all of our players are returning next year, which will be great moving forward to next season.”

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Tori Penrod and Emily Krogman: Dynamic duo in the sand