Local player Abbott is first signee for new Bushnell beach volleyball program

Scott Swanson

Teja Abbott plans to play beach volleyball for Bushnell University next year after signing a letter of intent in a quiet ceremony last summer.

Abbott was the first of what may be a succession of senior volleyball players, from the Sweet Home High School team that finished second in the state last year, to move on to college volleyball, according to high school athletic officials. Bailee Hartsook signed earlier this month to play at Western Oregon and more signings are expected later this year, they say.

Bushnell, formerly known as Northwest Christian College, in Eugene, announced Sept. 2 that it was adding women’s beach volleyball as a varsity sport.

Abbott said she started playing beach volleyball following her freshman year as “an opportunity to stay busy and work on my skills during the off season.

“I soon discovered I had a new love for playing in the sand and felt like that was where I was meant to be. It has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to continuing this adventure.”

She has been playing club volleyball for Sweet Home since she was 11, after Coach Mary Hutchins suggested she try out for the Under 12 team.

“I hadn’t really thought about playing at the college level until I was older and gaining more experience and strengthening different skills,” she said. “When I joined Oregon Sand Volleyball Club I felt more in my element and my beach coach Damon encouraged me to reach out to colleges with beach programs. 

“While considering a couple other programs out of state, I was introduced to Jason Corwin, the head coach of Bushnell University’s volleyball program. After conversations with him and learning about Bushnell’s educational programs and a campus visit, I was excited to accept his offer.”

She said she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree and become an elementary or high school math teacher.

Abbott was the first athlete to sign with the new beach volleyball program, she said.

Bushnell Athletic Director Corey Anderson said the addition of beach volleyball is “a natural progression” for the Beacons’ existing volleyball program.

“While these two programs at first will share a number of student-athletes, the overall goal of beach volleyball will be to carry its own roster during the initial three to five years of the program. 

“To be able to add a fast and competitive sport like beach, that will be played outside and with limited participants needed to play, this seemed like the right place at the right time to move forward with this decision.”

Bushnell is the second Cascade Collegiate Conference school to add beach volleyball and the fourth institution in the state of Oregon to officially offer the sport, joining the University of Oregon, University of Portland and Corban, which also competes in the CCC.

Current head coach Corwin will take on additional duties to oversee both programs while Kim Elgarico has been named the head coach for the beach program. Elgarico also serves as an assistant with the indoor team.

“Teja is a hardworking, responsible student athlete,” said Hutchins. “I have had the pleasure of coaching Teja since she was very young and Teja also attended Holley Elementary where I worked.

“She has really pushed herself year in and year out during the season and in the offseason by playing indoor club volleyball and then beach during the summer to continue to build on her skills. She has invested in herself and it has paid off.

“I am so proud of Teja. Not only is she a strong academic student but she is also a great helper and teammate.  feel so lucky to have coached her for so long and I am excited to continue to watch her play for Bushnell.”