HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — Silila Tucker doesn’t regret enrolling at Graceland University. To do so would be to regret many of the modern blessings he currently enjoys. It was at Graceland where he met his wife. Played a lot of good volleyball there, too, once rising as high as No. 2 in the nation for NAIA schools. But the teeny, tiny university in Lamoni, Iowa, with an undergraduate population of less than 1,000, made him forget.
Tucker’s first taste of volleyball came on the beach. He’d scrap against the Aunties at Queen’s Beach on Oahu. Follow around his dad when he was playing in qualifiers with an obnoxious, blonde, mohawk-rocking kid named Casey Patterson, returning to show off all the sponsored stuff he hawked from the booths — sunscreen! T-shirts! Chapstick! He’d take any chance he could to run around with the other kids in Hawai’i over the summers. Occasionally at Graceland, he and Steve Roschitz would hit he dirt courts that masqueraded as sand, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t Hawai’i. Heck, it wouldn’t have compared to man-made courts in Utah or Texas, which Tucker would soon frequent.
“For me, it was go play indoor, play it until it’s done, and then start playing beach tournaments,” Tucker said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “And when I started playing beach again, I go ‘Oh yeah, I want to do this more than that.’ I got so distracted. I just wasted five years. I could have done this right away. What was I doing?’ It clicked right away. This is what I want to do.”
There is hardly a direct path for a male to get into professional beach volleyball. Since the NCAA introduced women’s beach volleyball as a sport in 2012, that path has become clear for the females. But the men? It’s a make-it-up-as-you-go adventure. When Tucker felt the itch for the beach again, he simply made it up as he went.
Texas came first. Tucker graduated from Graceland and moved with his future wife to Houston. Roschitz, his old teammate, lived in San Antonio, and they’d occasionally play local tournaments together. But on the day-to-day, Tucker got his fix any way he could. He’d train at 6 a.m. before work, punch the clock, lift at lunch, then occasionally play in the evenings at Ryan Walker’s house.
His bosses even let him travel as much as he wanted in 2019, allowing him to take time off to play in…
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