MONTEREY — The ground beneath Kylee Moore offers a sinking sensation as she plants her feet in the sand to soar above the net.
Exhaustion sets in a little earlier for Teresa Ochoa playing volleyball on the beach, where she pushes her legs to dig up a ball or place it on Moore – her only Monterey Peninsula College teammate on the court.
Oh, and there are also the elements, like the sun blinding them when the ball is in the air, the wind picking up a pass and redirecting it, and the heat pushing the sand off their bodies.
“You have to be aware that the wind will alter your pass or your set, even your shot at net,” said Moore, who led the Coastal Conference in kills and digs last fall playing inside for the Lobos. earning first-team honors.
Moore was dynamic as an outside hitter at Salinas High. So did Ochoa when he sent screaming volleyballs through the net for North Salinas.
Paired together, the two quickly gelled in their first season for the Lobos, as Moore and Ochoa are ranked No. 2 in the state in beach volleyball, capturing two more games Friday to move to 7-1.
“We just connected,” Ochoa said. “There’s a good chemistry between us. I feel like we both know what to do or where we’re going on the pitch. Our communication is getting stronger.
It doesn’t hurt that both have a background in beach volleyball, though each has made a name for themselves indoors, earning Herald All-County honors in volleyball.
Moore grew up playing beach volleyball before stepping foot indoors, where her dad Kit is the MPC indoor and beach coach.
“I actually prefer the beach,” said Moore, a freshman at MPC. “I see myself going down this path at the four-year-old level. Of course, if a college wants me for both, I’d take that.
Moore is coming off a fabulous first indoor season for the Lobos, after finishing third in the state with 386 kills, while adding 402 digs and 28 service aces.
While Moore’s path to MPC was a little more predictable, Ochoa’s was stalled when COVID-19 shut down all high school and college sports in March 2020.
Having started playing beach volleyball at Gavilan College before the pandemic hit, the 5-foot-10 Ochoa hasn’t touched a ball for more than a year — indoors or on the beach.
His last full season came indoors in 2019, when Ochoa recorded 404 kills and nearly 300 digs as he led Gavilan to a share of the Coastal Conference South Division title.
“I missed it,” Ochoa said. “Supporting myself made it hard for me to get back into it. I watched a movie of myself and it kind of rekindled the fire. Kit (Moore) had already contacted me. So I contacted him to see if the offer was still there.
After moving to Seaside, 22-year-old Ochoa returned to college to pursue her Associate of Arts degree. Playing beach volleyball is getting her in shape for a potential return indoors next fall.
“I started putting videos together for colleges to watch,” Ochoa said. “My family moved to San Diego. I contact the schools in the region. I still have a lot to offer. The passion for the sport has never gone away.
While the Lobos are a team enduring growing pains in their first official season on the range, Ochoa and Moore have emerged as one of the best pairings in the state.
“We were matched because of our skill level,” Moore, 19, said. “We are tied. We push ourselves to work harder. Teresa has the soft skills you need for the beach.”
Skills that Ochoa didn’t always have to use in high school. An outside hitter, her primary role at North Salinas was hitting the ball across the net, where she was the Pacific Division’s Most Valuable Player in 2017.
“I’ve always been a front-line player,” Ochoa said. “At the beach, you have to play in all positions. I am getting better. Finding my cardio, especially on the sand, took time.
As Ochoa returned to form, Moore provided that motivation and energy as the pair lost just one game in the Coast Conference, which features eight teams including Cabrillo and Gavilan.
In fact, there are 38 programs in the California Community College Athletic Association, representing more than 150 two-player teams.
“Kylee was a motivator,” Ochoa said. “I hope to use this as a springboard to return indoors next fall to a four-year school. But I wouldn’t mind playing at the beach either.
Learning each other’s tendencies is a process. As communication continues to evolve, the couple relied on their natural instincts to compensate.
While the height of the net is the same as indoors, the dimensions of a beach volleyball court are slightly smaller. Instead of six players on the pitch, there are only two.
“There’s a lot of ground to cover and you’re not going that fast,” Moore said. “If one blocks, the other covers the rest of the court.”
Understanding net calls allows the pair to adjust their direction in anticipation of the ball. As the pair get more familiar, their pace on the court improves, which builds expectations going forward.
“There are different calls you can make when you go up to block a shot,” Moore said. “That way the other can remove that path to the ball. We grow together. There’s a long-term goal. I can’t wait to see where it takes us.