The NVL opened the 2014 season with an event in Dallas over the weekend, ushering in the first of several domestic pro beach volleyball events scheduled this summer by the NVL, AVP and FIVB. The AVP will open its 2014 season next weekend in St. Petersburg, FL and the FIVB will host its World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach in late July.
The NVL's first event showcased some new names and some new features. The Dallas event was won by Canadians Josh Binstock and Sam Schacter on the men's side and Pri Piantadosi-Lima and Karolina Sowala claimed the title for the women.
Albert Hannemann continues to innovate and try out new things to enhance the fan experience. This was the first time that the "Saturday Night Lights" format was used which featured evening finals followed by a beach party and live music.
The league is also making it much easier to watch matches via The NVL Network. In a welcome change, not only will the live stream be available, but if fans can't be in front of their computers at the exact moment the match is played they can access the archived video of selected matches for free. Registration is required to view the video.
The AVP will open its 2014 season this weekend in St. Petersburg, FL. The event begins on Thursday with qualifiers and ends on Sunday June 1st. Tickets are priced at $10 for Friday, $15 for Saturday and $18 for Sunday. A three-day general admission ticket can be purchased for $35.
Last year's final in St. Pete was canceled due to inclement weather so no champion was crowned on the women's side and the men had to re-play the final at the next event location. This year, the weather report is calling for scattered thunderstorms, but the AVP hopes it is nothing like the gale force winds they saw the last time.
No Americans competed in the FIVB's Open in Prague for the women last weekend. The title went to Kolocova/Slukova of the Czech Republic who took down Holtwick and Semmler of Germany in three sets. The FIVB's Anapa, Russia event is already underway and there is one American pair competing in this event on both the men's and women's side - William Montgomery/Stafford Slick and Irene Hester/Caitlin LeDoux.
Click here for a complete schedule and results for the 2014 season including all of the events for the FIVB, AVP and NVL this summer.
Penn State women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose was honored this week with his very own ice cream flavor at a Happy Valley's beloved Berkey Creamery. Rose is the first to be honored with a "hall of fame" permanent flavor in 20 years and joins the ranks of Joe Paterno and several other distinguished Penn State faculty and alums.
The flavor, called Russ "digs" Roseberry, was developed with input from Rose and his wife and is made with black raspberry puree, whole strawberries, strawberry sauce, red raspberry sauce and pure Wilbur's chocolate in a vanilla base.
Not that 35 years of service to the University and an amazing five national championships in the last seven years is anything to shake a stick at. But a permanent ice cream flavor in his name makes it official. Rose has truly made it.
There are only 10 days left to get your Vol-B-Que tickets. If you're going to be anywhere near the Southern California area on June 7th, you need to be there.
Matt Garthoff is putting his neck out once again in the hopes that volleyball fans will put their money where their mouths are. We volleyball fans say that no one ever gives us nice things. Well, here is Garthoff doing everything he can to promote this year's Vol-B-Que, the volleyball tailgate party that changed our perspective on what volleyball fans were capable of back in 2012.
Can he do it again? Not without your help.
More than half of the 400 tickets to the Vol-B-Que have already been sold, but check out what Garthoff had to say about this year's efforts. Then click on the link to buy your tickets. We should see a great display of young talent fresh out of the NCAA playoffs and some of the seasoned veterans as well.
World League is a huge deal tournament and Russia, the defending Olympic gold medalist, is a huge deal team. Another good turnout could do wonders for whatever "nice things" we hope to attract to the sport in the future. Seriously.
Save Garthoff, Save the (Volleyball) World.
As collegiate sand volleyball says goodbye to its emerging sport status and hello to its official NCAA sport status, it means there are lots of changes ahead. One such change could be the location for the national championship tournament.
Gulf Shores, Alabama has been the host of the first three AVCA national championships and it seems all parties involved have been happy about what they've done with the event as well as the convenience the location provides. But when the NCAA takes over, there will be a bidding process in accordance with the bylaws and the location could move as soon as 2016.
While Alabama doesn't strike me as a hotbed for volleyball, it seems they'd be disappointed to lose what has become an annual event for the city. AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer, Nina Matthies, coach of 2014 team champion Pepperdine and Anna Collier, USC's Coach of the Year have all expressed support for bringing the event back to Gulf Shores.
By all accounts this location has been great for sand volleyball, but for the growth and exposure of the sport it might be good to spread it around the country as other NCAA sports traditionally do. Gulf Shores can take solace in the fact that it will have the sand championships for one more year. But after that, it will be up to the NCAA to decide.
The top American teams skipped last weekend's Open tournament in Puerto Vallarta, but several U.S. teams did give it a go and American pairs got as far as the quarterfinals on both the men's and women's sides of the event. The men were led by Theo Brunner and Todd Rogers and the women by Christal Engle and Heather Hughes.
Rogers and Brunner went 2-1 in pool play and beat Brazilians Marcio Arujo and Thiago in a three-set battle to make it to the quarterfinals. There they fell to Italians Ingrosso and Ingrosso in two sets, 21-18, 21-14. The Ingrossos went on to make the gold medal match where they were defeated by Samoilovs and Smedins of Latvia in two sets.
John Hyden and Tri Bourne along with Brad Keenan and John Mayer made it to the Round of 16. Placed in the same pool Hyden and Bourne went 3-0 while Keenan and Mayer went 2-1, losing only to their American counterparts in a three set match. Both made it through the first round of the playoffs but were defeated in the second. Keenan and Mayer lost to the Ingrossos in two sets. Hyden and Bourne lost to a Chinese pair in a very tight three sets. After winning the first set 21-15, they lost the second 21-19 and the third 16-14.
Besides Hughes and Engle, there was only one other U.S. women's pair in the tournament. Jen Fopma and Whitney Pavlik were also in the same pool as the other American pair and just as on the men's side Hughes and Engle went undefeated in pool and Fopma and Pavlik lost only to the other Americans, finishing 2-1. Fopma and Pavlik won their first round playoff match but lost in the Round of 16 to Chinese pair Xue and Xia in three sets - 17-21, 21-18, 13-15. That Chinese pair went on to win bronze.
Hughes and Engle made it through to the quarterfinal, but lost to Labourer and Sude of Germany in three sets. While they hung tough for the first two sets - losing 20-22 and winning 21-16 - they lost the third badly, 5-15. The women's final was all Brazil with Agatha and Seixas taking down Juliana and Antonelli in two sets in the gold medal final.
There are no beach volleyball tournaments scheduled for this week. The women will pick up again next week in Prague while the men are off until the Anapa, Russia Open beginning on May 27th.
The first FIVB Grand Slam in Shanghai yielded no medals for U.S. beach teams. On both the men's and women's sides of the event, the quarterfinals were as far as American pairs were able to go.
After winning the first Open tournament of the season last week, Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross did not make the podium. They lost to Brazilians Agatha and Seixas just before the semifinal round.
Top men's teams Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson along with Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser also lost in the quarterfinal round. Phil and Rosie lost to the eventual gold medal winners, Italians Nicolai and Lupo, who earned their second gold medal finish in just two weeks. Jake and Casey lost to Brazilians Emanuel and Pedro who went on to lose to Nicolai and Lupo.
Summer Ross and Emily Day fell in the round of 16 to the same Brazilians that took out Kerri and April. Fendrick and Sweat also lost in that same round to a Polish pair. A Polish men's team took out John Hyden and Tri Bourne in the Round of 16 on the men's side as well. Ryan Doherty and Nick Lucena lost to a German pair in the first round of the playoffs.
The FIVB is in Puerto Vallarta this week for an open tournament that concludes on Saturday for the men and on Sunday for the women.
The inaugural six-team NCAA men's volleyball tournament began last night with two play-in matches for berths to the Final Four. While top seeds Loyola Chicago and BYU earned automatic berths to the national semifinal, four teams were set to fight it out for the other two spots.
Last night Stanford took on the new addition to the playoffs, Conference Carolinas' Erskine. The Cardinal didn't have much trouble dispatching with the Flying Fleet. They won the match in three sets - 25-14, 25-16, 25-15. Stanford hit .423 while holding Erskine to a .043 hitting percentage. They also outblocked Erskine 13-2, a testament to the Cardinal's height advantage.
The second match of the night was a bit more contested but Penn State was able to beat Lewis in four sets - 27-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-19. Lewis had it's chances but Penn State managed to win the rallies when it counted to take the match. Lewis out-blocked Penn State 12.5-9 but the Nittany Lions hit a bit better with a .297 percentage for the match while the Flyers hit .252. Penn State also out-dug Lewis 39-27.
Both Penn State and Stanford will have their hands full with their semifinal opponents. Penn State will take on No. 1 Loyola Chicago. The two teams met once back in March and Loyola won the match 3-1. Penn State could not stop Loyola's attack in that match and they'll need to find a way to slow the hitters down if they want to stage an upset.
Stanford and BYU will meet for the fourth time this season and BYU is undefeated in this series, winning all three matches. The Cougars won in four in Provo, in five in Palo Alto and swept the Cardinal in three in the MPSF conference final last weekend. BYU is extremely difficult to beat at home and star outside hitter Taylor Sander is playing well. But BYU lost it's last four regular season matches, all of which were on the road. With this match being held in a neutral location, Stanford could find an edge.
The semifinal matches will take place on Thursday night at Loyola Chicago and will stream live on the NCAA.com website. The national championship match will air on ESPNU at 5 PM Pacific on Saturday.
The 2014 pro beach season is officially underway and the top American women's team is showing that they mean business. Kerri Walsh and April Ross won the Fuzhou Open last weekend beating some very good Brazilian and Chinese teams on the way. They've served notice to the international women's tour that they are the team to beat. Now all they need to do is prove they are ready to win consistently. They'll get another chance this weekend at the first Grand Slam of the year in Shanghai.
Unfortunately, Kerri and April were about the only bright spot for the U.S. pairs in Fuzhou. Both of the other American women's pairs bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. And on the men's side Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal went 2-1 in pool play but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by eventual silver medalists Alison and Bruno of Brazil. The Brazilians lost to Italians Nicolai and Lupo in the gold medal final. John Hyden and Tri Bourne were the other American team competing in Fuzhou, but they had a rough time in pool play, losing all three matches and not moving on to the playoff round.
The American men are faring much better at the Shanghai Grand Slam. All three American teams entered are now 2-0 in pool play with one match remaining. Dalhausser/Rosenthal and Bourne/Hyden are competing along with top American pair Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson. The men's competition runs through Sunday.
The women begin play today and three American pairs are competing in Shanghai - Walsh/Ross, Lauren Fendrick/Brook Sweat and Summer Ross/Emily Day. Check back for results.
The committee has spoken and for the first time in the new expanded playoff structure, six teams will continue post-season play on the way to the NCAA championship. Loyola Chicago received the No. 1 seed and sit on one side of the bracket while BYU received the No. 2 seed and will sit on the other side of the bracket. So those two teams will get a bye straight to the Final Four and could face each other in the final.
There will be two play-in matches to earn a berth to the final four amongst the other four teams. As the No. 3 seed, Stanford will take on No. 6 seed Erskine from the new addition of Conference Carolinas. No. 5 seed Penn State will take on No 4 seed Lewis. All of the matches will be played at Loyola-Chicago and as far as I can tell, the play-in matches will not be on television, but will be broadcast on Loyola-Chicago's webstream. The national championship match will air on ESPNU on Saturday, May 3rd.
Here is the schedule for the matches starting Tuesday night:
NCAA Playoffs - Loyola Chicago
Tuesday, April 29th
6:00 PM CT - Stanford vs. Erskine
8:00 PM CT - Penn State vs. Lewis
Thursday, May 1st
6:00 PM CT - BYU vs. Stanford/Erskine
8:00 PM CT - Loyola Chicago vs. Penn State/Lewis
Saturday, May 3rd
7:00 PM CT - National Championship Match
Starting tonight and running through this Saturday night, the top four teams in the three big conferences will compete for each's conference championship. When it is all over, we'll see who's still standing and finally find out which teams the committee deems worthy to move on to the play-in matches and the national semifinals.
In Provo, No. 1 BYU will host the MPSF including No. 2 Pepperdine, No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Santa Barbara. In Happy Valley, No. 1 Penn State will host No. 2 Harvard, No. 3 Princeton and No. 4 George Mason. And in the MIVA, national No. 1 Loyola Chicago will host No. 4 IPFW and No. 2 Lewis will host No. 3 Ball State.
Both the MIVA and MPSF held quarterfinal matches last weekend and each of the top four seeds managed to live to play another day. Though some of the matches were not easy ones in the MPSF. It was not the same story in the Midwest. All four of the MIVA quarterfinal matches were over in three sets. Now things should really heat up as they take each other on for all the marbles.
EIVA did not hold quarterfinals so the top four teams will begin this weekend with the semifinal matches at Penn State. Conference Carolinas has already crowned its champion as Erskine won the title last week with a 3-0 victory over Mount Olive.
Matches to Watch
Wednesday, April 23rd
No. 3 Ball State @ No. 2 Lewis
No. 4 IPFW @ No. 1 Loyola Chicago
MIVA Championships - @ Highest Remaining Seed
Saturday, April 26th
MPSF Semifinals - @ BYU
Thursday, April 24th
No. 2 Pepperdine vs. No. 3 Stanford
No. 1 BYU vs. No. 4 UC Santa Barbara
MPSF Final - @ BYU
Saturday, April 26th
EIVA Semifinals - @ Penn State
Thursday, April 24th
No. 2 Harvard vs. No. 3 Princeton
No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 4 George Mason
EIVA Championship - @ Penn State
Saturday, April 26th