SARASOTA — Annie Montgomery feels a sense of solace every time she steps onto the sand on Siesta Beach.
In many ways it’s become her second home.
The 2012 Cardinal Mooney High graduate and Florida State University freshman spent nearly four years training on the soft white sand of Siesta Beach.
It was there that she discovered her sand legs while building up her endurance in the Florida sunshine.
She knows the feel of the sand and most importantly just how long it takes to get to the water’s edge.
And this weekend, Montgomery is hoping to use that knowledge to her advantage when she and the rest of the No. 3 ranked Florida State sand volleyball team hit the beach for the fifth annual Fiesta on Siesta.
The Fiesta on Siesta, which takes place April 12 to April 14, is one of the largest collegiate sand volleyball competitions. Twenty-five teams from across the country will participate in the three-day competition, which features sand dual matches, the Siesta Sand Pairs Challenge and the Fiesta Team Cup.
Montgomery is among 20 girls from Florida State who will be competing this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to playing at home in the sand that I trained on all last year; and seeing my friends and family and having them watch me play,” Montgomery says.
“I just want to play well and just do good with my team and have fun,” Montgomery says. “I want to show my friends and family what I’ve been training for.”
Montgomery began playing indoor volleyball when she was in the fifth grade, but it wasn’t until her sophomore year at Cardinal Mooney that Montgomery began playing sand volleyball competitively.
At the urging of her high school coaches Kristin Batt, a professional sand volleyball player, and Joe Rohr, who also played sand volleyball professionally, Montgomery began practicing and training in the sand.
“It was different, but I liked it because it’s more one-on-one,” Montgomery says. “You get more touches, so that makes it more fun. And it’s on the beach, so that makes it better.
“Getting your sand legs takes the longest,” Montgomery says. “It’s so different moving in sand (than on an indoor court).”
Montgomery played both indoor and beach volleyball throughout high school, but the former middle hitter decided during the spring of her junior year that her future was in sand volleyball.
“I wasn’t really tall enough for my position,” says Montgomery, who is 5-10.
Montgomery spent the past year training on Siesta Beach in preparation for her freshman season at Florida State.
“It’s such a blessing to have the opportunity to play here with such a new program and to be a student-athlete at such a big school,” Montgomery says.
Florida State is off to an impressive start this season having nearly upset No. 1 ranked Pepperdine March 14.
“We’re all really close,” Montgomery says. “We have really good chemistry as a team. There’s competition within the team amongst each other, but it all stays on the court.”
The Seminoles sand volleyball season began March 3 and will continue through May 5. Following this season, Montgomery will compete in a number of individual tournaments throughout the summer in preparation for next season.
Eventually, Montgomery has aspirations of following in the footsteps of Kerri Walsh, Misty May-Treanor and her former coaches, landing a spot on the pro tour.
“I don’t know how far I’ll get, but that’s my goal,” Montgomery says.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].