Class of 2015Active: 1974 - 1991
17 Open Victories
Nancy Cohen is proof that great things come in small packages. Intensity, competitiveness, and desire are not limited by a player's height and Nancy’s career is testament to those characteristics.
Nancy grew up around the courts at State Beach and began playing beach volleyball almost as soon as she could walk. The lessons of the State Beach legends at that time, Selznick, Holtzman and others, clearly rubbed off on Nancy. At the age of only 14, Nancy entered her very first Women's open with another State Beach legend, Jean Brunicardi. The two won the tournament, beating Eileen Clancy and Barbara May in the finals. By most accounts, Nancy is the youngest winner of an Open in beach volleyball history.
Nancy played indoor volleyball at Pacific Palisades High School, winning a City Championship and being named City MVP in 1976. She was among the first female college volleyball players to receive an athletic scholarship and played four years at Pepperdine under the late legendary coach Patty Bright.
During her time playing indoors, Nancy never stopped playing on the beach. For Nancy Cohen, the two were entirely complimentary and it was not uncommon for Nancy to play at State Beach in the morning and practice at Pepperdine in the evening.
One player that began to take notice of Nancy was the irrepressible Kathy Gregory. The two soon formed the most dominant partnership on the beach and together won 13 Opens. What's most amazing about this number is the two only played in 15 tournaments together.
While other players may have wilted in the face of Gregory's intensity, Nancy thrived on it and the two brought the level of competitiveness in the women’s game to another level. Being the smaller player, the pressure was often on Nancy to side out as the serves mostly came her way. Nancy loved this pressure and how Gregory brought out the best in her game.
Nancy also had success with many other players from that era. She won two Open with Susie Jones as well as the Doheny Beach Open with Tauna Vandeweghe and had success with Eilieen Clancy, Bonnie Toth and others.
All told, Nancy Cohen won 17 opens out of the 33 tournaments she entered. That is a winning percentage that is among the best the sport has ever seen.
Following her beach career Nancy remained active in the sport, coaching at the junior level and working as a volleyball stunt coordinator in Hollywood. Happily married to her husband Dean, she continues to play regularly at State Beach. And while she's no longer the 14 year old wunderkid, those that underestimate her because of her size, still do at their own peril.