March 25, 2022 - The best 112 beach volleyball players in the world descended upon Rosarito, Mexico, this weekend to compete in the first Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 tournament of the season. It has been, thus far, a garish affair, living up to all the hype Volleyball World could pour into it: sublime location, magnificent volleyball, digital media pinging left and right and in streams on every screen imaginable across the globe.
And yet, for the juniors in the United States, one does not need to stamp their passport and hit the telegenic coasts of Mexico to play beach volleyball. Rather, they can do so in Texas, or Florida, or North Carolina, or Arizona, or South Carolina – anywhere with sand and a willing host will do. They can do so in tournaments big and small, with full tournament fields or not, with livestreams or simply other kids barely paying attention and flipping the scoreboards.
Yes, as winter has alas moved into spring, and our clocks have been cranked forward, and the daylight stretches longer, the beach volleyball being played only increases more and more. MadSand Volleyball, in Dallas, Texas, is hosting yet another 1-Star juniors qualifier.
Nona Sports, in Orlando, Florida, another regular, is again hauling in talent in the Sunshine State, namely in the 16U division. Vittoria Lane and Marley Kellar currently lead the seeding, ahead of Gianna Rivera and Liana DeNona, and Julianette Ulanga-Narvaez and Julishca Ulanga-Narvaez. The 14U division is currently headed by Skye Douglass and Rosabella Palanti.
Although no seeding is yet available, four divisions at SR1 Volleyball, in Wellington, Florida, are filling up, and fast, as 19 teams have registered for the 1-Star tournament this weekend.
In St. Johns, Florida, juniors are flocking to Sports Edge Beach, with Reese Edwards and Traci Schrock, Brooke Green and Lauren Cairo, and Gabrielle Bissell and Izzy Ramos leading the 18U division. Senna Thayer and Allie Burroughs, Christy Boulware and Mollie VanDeusen, and Avery Meide and Ryan Murphy head the 16U division. Sofia Ventimiglia and Karsyn Smith, Ashley Sabato and Mia Wicks, and Savannah Clements and Julia Greene are the top three seeds in the 14U division.
Up the coast, in Wilmington, North Carolina, Meakai Athletica has sponsored an event in the Wilmington Volleyball Series, swelling the purse to $5,000 that has drawn in much of the top talent in the east. Precocious youngsters Caleb Kwekel and Dylan Zacca lead the men's field, ahead of veteran Larry Salefsky and Cuban bomber, Angel Dache. Grass legend, Marc Fornaciari is seeded fourth, alongside Pedro Schneider.
On the women's side, Supermom Aurora Davis and regular partner Lydia Smith head the field, ahead of Poland's Aleksandra 'Ola' Wachowicz and Jagoda Gruszczynska. Canadian National Team players Aline Dormann and Amanda Harnett, who are in town training before hitting the World Tour, are seeded fifth.
The juniors event in Wilmington will be played on Sunday, March 27.
In the desert of Gilbert, Arizona, all 10 spots in the girls 18U division have been accounted for, while six of eight in the 16U division are registered and 13 of 16 in the 14U are as well. A similarly small event held in Cedar Park, Texas and hosted by Austin Junior Volleyball Sand has almost filled up, with just two spots remaining in the eight-team tournament, led by Kennedi Diamond and Haylee Wright, Holly Ford and Georgie Worley, and Kiah McCoy and Paisley Pavliska.
So yes, while the greatest may be in Rosarito, Mexico this weekend, the next generation is a little bit of everywhere.
All across AVPAmerica.
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew