Wednesday May 15, 2013
Sad news out of USA Volleyball this week. Dave Williams, the managing director for USAV Beach passed away yesterday at the age of 55 from cancer. Williams was the first and only person to hold the position and brought a wealth of knowledge of beach volleyball events from his many years of work with the AVP where he produced over 150 events. Williams brought energy and passion to the position which was created back in 2010 to promote the growth of beach volleyball in the U.S.
I spoke with him in 2011 about his controversial decision to allow a Brazilian to play in the Hermosa Beach Open. Williams was forthcoming about wanting Pedro Salgado in the tournament as a wake up call for American beach players. He felt that U.S. development had fallen behind Brazil and he wanted our players to get a glimpse of just how good their young stars were. Pedro competed with American Casey Jennings and the two ended up winning the tournament.
Since then, American beach volleyball has made many strides including the addition of NCAA sand volleyball as an emerging sport for women and many more high school and developmental beach volleyball programs for young people. It's only a matter of time before these enhancements begin to pay dividends at the international level.
Williams passed away in a Southern California hospital surrounded by his family. For more information, see the USA Volleyball website.
Tuesday May 14, 2013
USA Volleyball announced several opportunities to watch the women's team play in Southern California in the coming months. In an effort to strengthen ties with the community in which the USA teams train, there will be several intrasquad scrimmages and matches against international competition in the surrounding cities.
The women will begin with three intrasquad scrimmages in Los Angeles and Orange County each Friday beginning this week and running through May 31st. Later this summer, they'll host the first annual USA Volleyball Cup Series. The World No. 1 Americans will take on World No. 3 Japan in three July matches in Long Beach, Orange County and San Diego.
The intrasquad scrimmages are free to the public while tickets for the matches against Japan can be purchased online at usavolleyballcup.com - $20 for adults and $5 for those under 18. Children under three will be admitted free. There will also be a VIP option for $150 per person which includes courtside seats, parking, hospitality before and after the match and an opportunity to meet the players and new head coach Karch Kiraly.
Don't worry, men's team fans, USAV says they'll be offering some men's matches as well. Check back for dates and details. In the meantime, you can get more information on the women's matches against Japan via the dedicated Facebook page and below are the dates and places where you can find the team this summer.
USA Women's Team Southern California Competitions
All matches begin at 7 PM
May 17th - Santa Monica High School, North Gym
May 24th - Windward School, Los Angeles
May 31st - Irvine Valley College
USA Volleyball Cup Matches vs. Japan
All matches begin at 7 PM
July 10th - UC San Diego
July 12th - Long Beach State University
July 13th - JSerra High School, San Juan Capistrano, CA
Tuesday May 14, 2013
Prince Harry loves volleyball. There's no other explanation, the prince takes up our sport at every opportunity. I think that means something.
Last year, in the lead up to the London Games he made a point of saying how excited he was to watch beach volleyball in particular and he took to the sand to play with Brazilian stars when he traveled to Rio to promote the Olympics. He was in the stadium when Misty and Kerri won gold. This week he played sitting volleyballwith injured vets at the Warrior Games in Colorado.
I think he's been practicing since we last saw him play. There's a little bit of video of Harry setting the ball around with the British squad and then taking on an American team that was joined by three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor.
I'm not sure who won, or if they were even keeping score, but Harry did show some decent setting hands. And at one point he hit a ball that Misty could not return, prompting Misty to get up and try to chase him down as he ran away. Prince Harry is nothing if not fun and the vets all seemed to have a great time interacting with him.
While there the prince also took time to help light the Warrior Games flame and started the cycling event. The Warrior Games features athletes from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations as well as the British Armed Forces competing in seven sports - archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball. The Games are free to the public and run through Thursday in Colorado Springs.
Wednesday May 8, 2013
As far as fan bases go, BYU is right up there with the best of them. No matter where the Cougars play in the country, you can bet there will be hundreds if not thousands of loyal, screaming fans there to support them. So it was no surprise to see a huge turnout to root on the No. 1 BYU men's volleyball team in the national finals last weekend. What was unexpected was that the UCI crowd would rival them in numbers and in noise level. But that's exactly what happened and for the second year in a row, the UCI fans have proven that they can hang with the best.
You wouldn't have known it earlier in the season. When UCI hosted BYU back in early March, there were far more Cougar fans in the stands. They made Irvine feel like the visiting team on its home court. But I have to hand it to UCI, they were able to put together a very solid group of folks to cheer the team to the championship last weekend.
The marketing department sold bright yellow t-shirts with the finals motto "All In" above the UCI logo that played nicely in the arena and on television. UCI also provided shuttles to carry students the 53 miles north to Pauley Pavilion. And for their part the students responded. They wore their shirts, they took the hour drive and they cheered fiercely for their squad.
The BYU crowd laid the gauntlet down in the introductions. UCI was introduced first to a nice round of applause from its fans. But when BYU was introduced, the crowd erupted putting UCI's fanbase to shame. That was the last time that happened. From then on the UCI fans matched BYU's noise level, chants and cheers for the entirety of the match. At points there were dueling chants going on at the same time raising the noise level to heights not often heard at volleyball matches.
Though the attendance of 6,295 fans in Pauley last weekend was far below the count at last year's championship in USC's Galen Center, it still ranks as one of the best crowds we've seen. Take into account that USC was No. 1 in the country last year and playing for the championship on its home court, which always ensures tons of local fans. But last year's amazing crowd of 9,612 fans also included a huge number of Anteater fans. UCI is the common denominator in both of these huge turnouts and they're showing that men's volleyball can draw big, raucous crowds in the right circumstances.
Turning out tons of fans two years in a row warrants a ranking in the upper echelon of fan bases. The Anteaters are now in the company of the BYUs and Hawaiis of the world. Welcome to the big leagues, UCI. Keep it up.