Mural, mural on the wall

The Georgia State’s beach volleyball team got a colorful new upgrade for their upcoming season, brightening their practices and giving them a new home-court advantage. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

If you attended a home beach volleyball game last season, you would’ve noticed an empty space on the back wall. Attend one today and you’ll notice a large, vibrant and colorful mural.

This offseason, Georgia State Athletics and a small local business called Buckhead Murals teamed up to do something special for the beach volleyball team and its fans. Buckhead Murals, owned by Cuban couple Lenia Castro and Ornesto Torres, painted the artwork.

“The athletic department researched our work and saw that we had did murals at local middle, elementary schools, and other colleges in Atlanta and they loved our work, so Nick reached out to us and of course we happily agreed,” Castro said.

Nick Buchs is the Director of Facilities and Operations, and his job is to make sure that the sports facilities are always looking and operating at their best.

The athletic department gave Castro and Torres a $20,000 budget for this project.

“Since this was such a huge space that had to be filled, we hired a few freelance artists in the area that are good with paint brushes, got all our supplies and worked hard on this project for six weeks straight,” Castro said.

The mural highlights some of Atlanta and Georgia State’s best features while keeping the beach volleyball theme.

“GSU wanted it to include some Atlanta style and flavor along with a nice tribute to the team and the school,” Castro said.

With that in mind, the couple and their workers came up with a tropical beach theme that features the Atlanta skyline, a beach, a volleyball net, volleyball and the words “Georgia State” in its background.

“We really think that we did a good job representing the university, the team and city of Atlanta,” Castro said. “We also hope that when people come to the games or even walk past the court, they will appreciate our hard work because in our home country, [Cuba], it is hard for us to do artistic work. It is frowned upon, so coming here and being able to follow our dreams means a lot to us.”

The team appreciates the hard work of Buckhead Murals and of the athletic department for getting this done before the start of its new season.

“The new mural really brightens up our practices and brings a smile to all of our faces,” Maddy Delmonte, a freshman beach volleyball player, said. “Not only does it add a splash of color into our courts, but it also connects our unique sport to our fantastic city. We really appreciate all the hard work that went into upgrading our own little beach in downtown Atlanta.”

The beach volleyball team is coming off the second winningest season in school history, finishing 24-12. The Panthers begin their 2019 season on Feb. 22 in the Stetson Spring Fling in Deland, Florida.

They racked up 22 wins in the regular season last year, which tied a school record. They also finished the season ranked No. 11 in the final AVCA Beach Poll and No. 12 in the DiG Magazine Poll.

The Panthers won 62 percent of their matches in match play for a 112-68 record on the year.

In addition, nine players earned double-digit wins for the season.

The team starts this season ranked No. 13 in the AVCA Beach Poll and No. 14 in the DiG Magazine Poll. Georgia State lost about half of its top talent, but a strong recruiting class and a few veterans returning should help them pick up where they left off last season.

The new background should also help the team with its home court advantage.