Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Playing Her Sport on Hometown Sand

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Playing Her Sport on Hometown Sand

Article excerpt

ON THE BEACH: Siesta event gives Kristen Batt a break from the road

SIESTA KEY

Getting cut from the volleyball team as a seventh grader may be the best thing that ever happened to Kristen Batt.

The disappointment gave her motivation and determination to be better. Now she's a professional beach volleyball player showcasing her talent in the Dig the Beach series, which stopped at Siesta Key this weekend.

"It's nice to play in my hometown," said Batt, who will spend the next few months traveling throughout Florida and across the country for tournaments.

Batt, and her partner Raquel Ferreira, were one of 372 teams signed up for the two-day tournament. Another 90 teams were on the waiting list.

"This is one of the largest -- in number of teams -- series in the country," said Steve Bishop, tour director and executive director of the Florida region of USA Volleyball. "Beach volleyball is growing by leaps and bounds. We've surpassed California with events and demands of athletes."

Batt first played beach volleyball on a whim when she was home from college. Before that, she led the Venice High School team to a state championship her senior year and earned a scholarship to University of Kentucky, where she started four years and was named the team's most valuable player.

"There is not much opportunity to do indoor volleyball unless you go overseas, so I started playing on sand tours and really loved it," Batt said.

In 2005, Batt had a knee injury that pushed her to get in better shape and train even harder. She began playing at the professional level two years later.

After losing her job in 2009, Batt turned her focus to the sport.

"I went from 78th in the country to third," said Batt, who has had a few partners over the years.

Batt is in her second season with Ferreira. The two practice about two hours every morning in St. Petersburg with their coach, Victor Carneiro. He left his family in Brazil in February to train the team for its beach volleyball season. …

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