Kylie Grandy and Genna Simpkins first came together on the hardwood. Placed on the same Triangle Volleyball Club team as 11 year olds, they soon found they shared another common interest.
Grandy and Simpkins both wanted to try their hand at beach volleyball, so the duo teamed up to give it a try.
Four years later, they are one of the top junior tandems in the country. They finished second at last year’s USA Volleyball Beach National Championships and are headed back to the national tournament this weekend in Milwaukee.
“Our goal this year is to win nationals just because it was such a close match last year,” Simpkins said.
They still play indoor volleyball for Triangle and their respective schools – Grandy will be a sophomore at Wake Forest High, and Simpkins, who attended St. David’s last year, will be a junior at Broughton.
Although both styles are volleyball, the game is different in the sand.
“We coach ourselves in beach, so in the sense of mentality, it takes a lot in your mind to keep yourself strong and just believe in yourself that you can beat the other team,” Grandy said. “Beach as a sport is very mental because there’s only two people and you’re having a lot of room to cover.”
In their first year competing, they finished first in the 12-and-under regional championship and fourth at AAU nationals.
With such initial success, the duo has grown both in skill and physicality during the years
“When we first started, we were both the same size,” said Simpkins, who is 5-foot, 4-inches, while Grandy is 5-foot, 10-inches. “Kylie has grown 5 or 6 inches, so she’s the blocker and hitter, and I play the back row. It’s worked out for the better because you wouldn’t have thought we’d have as much success because of our size before.”
Grandy’s growth spurt has forced the team to adjust its playing style.
This year, 15-year-olds Grandy and Simpkins have won six of their seven 16-and-under beach tournaments. The other was a second-place finish.
They were crowned 16U Carolina Grand Slam regional champions and are tied with each other for 10th in national rankings for their age group.
“It has a lot to do with your chemistry and friendship because if you don’t have a partner that you can trust in to be able to pull through, you have nobody else to lean on,” Grandy said.
When they return from the national tournament, their season won’t end there.
“After nationals, we try to go back to North Carolina and play against some of the adult teams and get better. ... The adult game is more strategy,” Grandy said. “We don’t always win, but it’s good experience.”