April 26, 2022, Lake Murray Country, SC - For the past 32 years, the Clash has been a can’t-miss tournament among grass volleyball players in the Southeast and, increasingly, around the country. And in year 33, after watching various cities and counties in South Carolina host the annual late spring event, Jayne Baker alas put her foot down for Lake Murray Country.
“It’s our turn,” said the head of public relations for Lake Murray Country. “We know the tournament’s been held around the state but we felt ‘Why not? It’s our turn.’ It’s our turn to have this tournament in our backyard.”
And what a backyard that is.
Lexington, South Carolina is a lovely little suburb of the state’s capital in Columbia. A little more than 20,000 people live in the town with an eponymous county, one of four that borders Lake Murray, dubbed the “jewel of South Carolina.”
“We just felt like this tournament would be a great fit for our region,” Baker said. “We’ve got the facilities, Lexington’s a beautiful place, there’s so much to offer the teams in terms of activities while they’re not playing. We just thought bringing the tournament here would be a great fit both for AVP Grass and us.
“We’re just always looking to bring new things to the region, and honestly it just sounded so fun. We’re not a beach destination with sand but we can certainly host the grass. We have the facilities to make it happen and thought it would be a great fit.”
Indeed, Lexington is as ideal a fit for the AVP Grass Tour as the AVP Grass Tour is for Lexington. When AVPAmerica Executive Director Carly Gant described the type of towns and cities she targets as potential grass hosts, she may as well have been describing Lexington.
“Middle-tiered cities are perfect fits for us,” she said. “The Southeast is a hot spot for us.”
It’s small, Lexington, the type with that local vibrancy you can only find in those smaller, southeastern cities, where most folks know one another’s name and the restaurants are locally owned, the type of town that embraces events such as these with open arms.
“The town of Lexington is close by the venue, and it has a cute little main street, vibrant, there’s an amphitheater there that always has some kind of entertainment,” Baker said. “And on Saturday, the town is actually hosting Kid’s Day, and what an opportunity for the teams to bring the kids to Kids Day.”
That main street is buzzing with options for the players and their respective families and friends to recharge. There’s Alodia’s Cucina Italiana, a local favorite, and Bodhi Thai, another regular haunt. Then there’s the classic southern spot, Bubba’s Biscuit, where the shrimp and biscuits are musts. And if those dishes sit a little heavy, well, you have choices aplenty to move around afterward.
“There’s lots of exercising, walking, rollerblading,” Baker said. “You can even bring the volleyball while you’re down there.”
And the volleyball, of course, is the priority. It’s why the AVP Grass Tour has merged with Lexington and Lake Murray Country in the first place.
“It was a no-brainer,” Baker said. “We needed to have this tournament in Lake Murray Country.”
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew