The Journey of Olivia Teerlink’s Beach Volleyball Career


Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics

By Mallory Arnold, Sports Writer


The University of Utah beach volleyball team is back for its third season as a D1 program, and they are led by senior Olivia Teerlink, who is one of the players on the beach-only roster. 

Teerlink was the manager of the beach team in her sophomore year and then walked on to the team after overcoming a back injury she thought would end her career. Luckily enough, a surgeon was able to fix her back and she was able to get back in the sand. 

“My parents were such good examples of working hard and telling us if we love something to just go for it,” Teerlink said. 

Teerlink reigns from Sacramento, California and is the youngest of four sisters. Currently studying psychology, sociology and nutrition, she has goals of becoming a psychologist for people with eating disorders once she graduates. 

Teamwork is something that is really important to her because in beach volleyball there are five different games going on at the same time. Each individual game goes on at once, but all of the players are working together to get a win for the collective team. 

“That’s what’s really cool about this sport. You can watch it and see how it looks individual or smaller to the pairs but it’s just as much of a team sport as any other sport,” Teerlink said. 

Standing at 5 feet 9 inches, she is the shorter player in her partnership. This season, Teerlink is partnered up with freshman Leah Schmidt, who is 6 feet 3 inches. Because of the height difference, she has to be a good problem solver and a little bit more tricky on her opponents to make this team as successful as possible. 

Last spring, she played eight matches in the fourth spot and four matches in the fifth spot. She went 2-8 on the season playing with both Phoebe Grace and Kinga Windisch. 

“Leah and I set some ground rules the day we found out we were partners and we already have a solid base that we just believe in each other,” Teerlink said. “She’s super awesome, and anytime I need to be pulled out of a funk, she tells me ‘you got this’ and I’m like ‘you’re right, I do.’”

The journey that Teerlink has been on is what keeps her motivated and she tries not to get wrapped up in the little struggles because she knows how much work she has put in to play at the level that she does now. 

She is looking forward to all the tough teams that the team will play this season because this schedule is so challenging. It is an opportunity for her to get better and to prove to the beach volleyball world what Utah is capable of. 

Teerlink hopes that in five years, beach volleyball will still be in her life, whether she is playing or coaching it. Her go-to song before a match is “Show Me the Money” by Petey Pablo. She enjoys going on hikes, hammocking with her friends and boating when she’s home. 

“When you’re competing you do these things that impress yourself. I love competition because it really is a testimony of your hard work paying off,” Teerlink said. 

Beach volleyball is a bit different from on-court volleyball. This game is played with only two people, as opposed to on-court volleyball, which has six players on the floor. There are also no substitutions in beach volleyball, so your two players must play the whole time. The biggest difference is the sand court, as the softer sand makes it more difficult to move and jump.

In court volleyball, you play to 25 points, while in beach volleyball, it is only 21 points. Players play five sets in a court volleyball match, trying to win three sets. However, beach volleyball is a shorter game with only three sets. The final deciding set is played to 15 in beach volleyball as well, but it stays the same in both kinds of volleyball in that you have to win by at least two points.

The Utes went 5-9 last spring, which was the best ever for the program since it started. Utah will play in California and Arizona for most of the season, but will be hosting their own tournament on April 10-11. The teams competing in the home tournament will be Salt Lake Community College, Colorado Mesa, Cal Poly and College of Southern Idaho.

You can catch Teerlink and the rest of the Utah beach volleyball team against the Arizona Wildcats on March 20 and against the CSUN Matadors on March 21. 

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