March 3, 2022 Clewarwater Beach, FL - To a normal person, and even a normal beach volleyball player, it has not been all that long since Sarah Schermerhorn has played in a beach volleyball tournament. The 33-year-old played in one just three months ago, in Itapema, Brazil. But three months without a tournament is, to Schermerhorn, not just three months. It's an eternity, "probably the longest I've ever gone since I started playing beach without playing a tournament,' she said.
This past weekend, Schermerhorn alas satiated that hunger to compete, winning the fourth and final stop of the Sunshine Series, held in Clearwater, Fla., with Corinne Quiggle, defeating familiar foes in Kim Hildreth and Kaya Marciniak in the finals.
"It was our intro back into that competition mindset," Quiggle said. "We really wanted to be in tournament situations. It was nice to see ourselves in game situations. It's been a while since November, so before we go to Mexico, which will be a big tournament, it's nice to have that under our belts."
Indeed, they have just two weeks remaining in what could be labeled their pre-season block before the international season begins. During the week of March 13, they'll travel to Tlaxcala, Mexico, for the first Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenger event. The stakes will be high enough in Mexico with a single-elimination qualifier to start, which isn't something they wanted to do without first feeling the nerves and adrenaline that only competition can bring.
"For me, having gone so long without playing in a tournament, I really realized the difference between a practice mindset and a playing mindset," Schermerhorn said. "In the past, I'd practice for a week, play on the weekend, practice for the week, play on the weekend, it was a constant switching back and forth. But this season, I've definitely seen more segmentation. It's been interesting to see there is such a difference in that mindset and it takes an adjustment period to switch from one to the other. In practice you get a little bit more time to analyze, to work through things that aren't going well. A lot of what we're working on is not judging ourselves, but when you get into competition, you have to go a lot quicker. You have to go from one play to the next without a lot of reflection. You have to let things go and move on."
They moved on well enough, topping a strong field that included Hildreth and Marciniak, Adrianna Nora and Pri Lima, Julia Colina and Jessica Wilson, Bree Scarbrough and Aurora Davis, and Lydia Smith and Kelly Wood.
"You play scrimmages but there's something about getting on the court and being in a tournament situation where it's a little bit different mindset, little bit different pressure, five matches in a day," Schermerhorn said. In Mexico, they won't see anywhere close to that type of physical demand. Volleyball World typically caps days at a maximum of three matches, which made Clearwater the perfect combination of training and competition cardio and match pressure, a feat of endurance in live situations.
"For me it felt like a training camp where it's just volleyball, lifting, film, rest, eat, sleep, it was awesome," Quiggle said. "We finished it off with that tournament at the end, come back for two weeks, get some competition [in California], then head to Mexico."
While none of the men will be headed to Mexico, the field was still a full one. Andrew Royal and Ethan Elkins took first, beating Justin Phipps and Joseph Reysen in the finals. Austin Banks and Spencer Gaston, and Bradley Bozeman and Kyle Ohman claimed third. In fifth were Kameron Beans and Brad Connors, and Thomas Hurst and Caleb Blanchette.
The juniors, too, were in Clearwater last weekend, as the Sunshine Series was also a 2-Star tournament as well as an open one. Katie Miller and Cambrie Riffe won the 18U Division, while Kailey Kleinatland and Bailey Higgins took second, and Emma Braticevic and Samantha Crosby, and Ashli McKenny and Lauren Cairo placed third. The 16U Division was won by JT McCormick and Diego Saavedra for the boys, and Piper Noelle Pitchford and Sophie Lyen for the girls. Maverick Moore and Logan Chase placed second, as did Olivia Hoyt and Thais Treumann. Rounding out the semifinalists were Luis Fernando Campo and Luis Eduardo Campo for the boys, and Andrea Kryak and Elizabeth Nye, and Cassidy Dart and Joelynne Luis for the girls.
The 14U Division was won by Izzy Ramos and Christy Boulware, who beat Dior Ferguson and Gabrielle Hernandez in the finals. Placing third were Skye Douglass and Rosabella Palanti, and Ansley Harpin and Maisie Allen. The 12U tournament was won by Danica Waterman and Mila Zujovic, who defeated Payton Cavanaugh and Isalina Heagle. In third was Alyssa Onorato and Victoria Samolej.