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Pro beach volleyball tournaments return to Southern California [UPDATED]

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Manhattan Beach resident Kerri Walsh Jennings begins her quest for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. Replacing retired and longtime partner Misty May Treanor will be silver medalist April Ross. Photo by Pete Henze

Manhattan Beach resident Kerri Walsh Jennings begins her quest for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. Replacing retired and longtime partner Misty May Treanor will be Whitney Pavlik at the ASICS World Series event. Photo by Pete Henze

It wouldn’t seem like summer without the excitement of professional beach volleyball tournaments taking place on the sands of South Bay beaches and, despite some uncertainty, the schedule it finally set.

Pro action begins Saturday when the EVP Tour comes to Hermosa Beach. Featuring $3,200 in prize money in the Men’s and Women’s Open competition, the event begins at 8 a.m. and also includes a co-ed 4-on-4 tournament.

Additional information and registration is available at evptour.com.

With the exception of the Olympics, the largest beach volleyball event ever held in the U.S. – and possibly the world – will take place in Long Beach July 22-28 with the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball.

The week will feature something for everyone – from AAU youth tournaments, to collegiate sand volleyball championships, to novice levels competing in 4-man and 6-man tournaments, to the top professional players in the world.

The event is the first Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) sanctioned Grand Slam tournament in the United States since 2003 and will include the inaugural ASICS World Series Cup, a special competition that will feature the top U.S. men’s and women’s teams competing against the best teams from around the world, similar to golf’s Ryder Cup.

NBC Sports Group, the FIVB, USA Volleyball and Management Plus Enterprises are partnering on the event, which will offer more than $500,000 in total prize money. In addition to title sponsor Asics, Bud Light, Paul Mitchell, Sabra, Barefoot Wine, Nestea and Mikasa have also signed on as sponsors.

More than 20 hours of programming will be provided by NBC, NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports, including telecasts of the men’s and women’s Grand Slam finals and ASICS World Series Cup Finals.

“The ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball will be an extraordinary beach volleyball and beach culture experience,” said event creator and promoter Leonard Armato. “Not only will we have the best players in the world competing as they did in the Olympic Games, but we will go beyond that by incorporating the highest level of four-person and six-person beach volleyball. Finally, we will also be integrating a beach music festival throughout the event.”

Armato, a Manhattan Beach resident, is a former AAA beach volleyball player and was CEO of the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) from 2002-2009.

He said he felt the sport of beach volleyball was crumbling in the U.S. but noticed its popularity in the London Olympic Games last summer.

Armato met with the CEO of NBC Sports stating that something had to be done to ignite the sport. He then spoke with FIVB President Ary Graca about the possibility of the FIVB holding an event in the U.S.

“He (Graca) said that we must design an event that will be remarkable,” said Armato, who feels he has done just that.

“We are very pleased to return to the traditional home of beach volleyball in the United States and California,” FIVB President Ary Graca said. “The ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball Long Beach will be one of ten Grand Slam events for what will be a dynamic beach volleyball season that reaches all the major volleyball countries of the world, ensuring beach volleyball has a global presence and bright future. We are also excited to have NBC, NBC Sports Network, and Universal Sports as our telecast partners and look forward to working together as we did at the Olympic Games where beach volleyball was such a resounding success.”

Whitney Pavlik will serve as Kerri Walsh Jennings’ partner at the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach. Photo by Ray Vidal

Whitney Pavlik will serve as Kerri Walsh Jennings’ partner at the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach. Photo by Ray Vidal

The World Series of Beach Volleyball will also mark the return of three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings after she and husband Casey Jennings – also a professional volleyball standout – had their third child and first daughter, Scout Margery, in April. The couple has two boys, Joey, 4, and Sundance, 3 and live in Manhattan Beach.

Originally scheduled to begin her season with the AVP tour in August, Walsh Jennings accelerated her training finding the WSOBV too hard to pass up.

“I am excited that the FIVB is returning to the U.S. after a 10-year absence,” Walsh Jennings said. “More importantly, to represent my country for global bragging rights in the inaugural World Series Cup and having the chance to capture the title, adding to my three Olympic medals, would be amazing.”

Walsh Jennings will be playing in Long Beach with Whitney Pavlik, who dominated domestic tournaments last season with partner Jenny Kropp.

Pavlik, however, won’t be the one to replace Walsh Jennings’ longtime partner Misty May Treanor, who retired after the duo won their third consecutive Olympic gold medal in London last summer. That job falls to Olympic silver medalist April Ross who, along with Jennifer Kessy, played against Walsh Jennings and May Treanor in the Olympic gold-medal match last summer in London.

“We are thrilled that Kerri will launch her return to competition after recently giving birth in the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball and represent the USA in the inaugural World Series Cup “live” on NBC Sports,” Armato said. “She is a true icon of the sport and having her represent the U.S. against the best in the world will make for compelling television.”

With 109 career tournament wins, Walsh Jennings is only three behind record-holder May Treanor.

Presently, five United States teams are ranked in the top 25 in the FIVB world rankings which included five new men’s teams.

Olympian Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson hold the No. 2 spot while Gibb’s former partner Sean Rosenthal (Hermosa Beach) and Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser are ranked No. 22.

Todd Rogers won Olympic gold with Dalhausser in 2008, but is now teamed with Ryan Doherty as the 24th-ranked team.

On the women’s side, the now disbanded team of Kessy and Ross are ranked No. 12 while rising stars Jennifer Fopma and Brooke Sweat are listed at No. 17.

The weeklong event in Long Beach is free to the public on a first-come basis, although there are a limited VIP tickets for sale.

On Thursday, July 25 the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) will host the Junior World Series of Beach Volleyball for boys with 10U through 16U divisions and girls ages 10U through 18U. Registration is available at aaubeach.org.

Four-man competition and finals will take place on Friday, July 26 followed by the 6-Man competition on Saturday, July 27. Both tournaments are open to the public and registration is available at wsobv.com.

Also on Saturday, July 27, the NCSVA will be hosting the 2012 National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championships. Any men’s and women’s college students are eligible to compete in the event. Registration and information is available at NCSVA.com.

 

After a three-year hiatus, the resurrected AVP returns to the South Bay when it presents beach volleyball’s iconic tournament – the Manhattan Beach Open. File photo by Ray Vidal

After a three-year hiatus, the resurrected AVP returns to the South Bay when it presents beach volleyball’s iconic tournament – the Manhattan Beach Open. File photo by Ray Vidal

The Granddaddy of Beach Volleyball

The most famous tournament of the year will have a new – yet old – look to it. Produced by IMG, the Manhattan Beach Open celebrates 53 years when the top domestic players in the game – many with new partners – compete Friday through Sunday, Aug. 23-25.

This year’s event will be the second of seven tour stops held by the resurrected Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) and offers $200,000 in prize money – doubling the amount of last year’s tournament.

Considered the Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball, the Manhattan Beach Open was the marquee tournament on the AVP schedule for many years, but shortly after the AVP suspended operations on Aug. 13, 2010, the City of Manhattan Beach scrambled to hold a tournament keeping the tradition alive.

For the last two years, the Manhattan Beach Open was part of the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series held in conjunction with USA Volleyball and produced by IMG.

Earlier this year, several of the world’s top beach volleyball pros signed exclusive deals with the AVP including Olympians Walsh Jennings, Dalhausser, Rogers, Ross, Kessy, Gibb, Rosenthal and Nicole Branagh.

“We are proud to host this iconic event in our city,” stated Manhattan Beach Mayor David Lesser. “We welcome visitors from around the world to join our community as we watch and participate in this wonderful event on our beautiful beach. The Manhattan Beach Open has been an annual rite of summer for more than half a century and we look forward to the great competition.”

Redondo Beach’s Sean Scott, right, and John Hyden join the women’s team of Jenny Kropp and Whitney Pavlik as two-time defending champions of the Manhattan Beach Open. File photo by Ray Vidal

Redondo Beach’s Sean Scott, right, and John Hyden join the women’s team of Jenny Kropp and Whitney Pavlik as two-time defending champions of the Manhattan Beach Open. File photo by Ray Vidal

Along with increasing the number of events this season, the AVP has an agreement with CBS Sports Network and CBS Interactive. CBS Sports Network will air live men’s and women’s championship round action from each stop on the tour. Live streams of preliminary action from each event will available on CBS Interactive.

On Aug. 22, there will be a Volleyball Walk of Fame red carpet ceremony at the Manhattan Beach Pier to honor last year’s winners Sean Scott, John Hyden, Kropp and Pavlik.

Both teams are two-time defending champions of the Manhattan Beach Open.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of the Manhattan Beach Open, and we couldn’t be happier to have the world’s best players competing on a beach with so much history behind it,” said Donald Sun, the AVP’s managing partner. “IMG has been a terrific partner, and the city of Manhattan Beach has welcomed us with open arms.”

For more information visit avp.com.

Although there is no official Hermosa Beach Open tournament scheduled this year (last year’s event was part of the Jose Cuervo/USAV tour), there will be a highly competitive professional tournament when the National Volleyball League (NVL) hosts the West Coast Championships in Hermosa Beach Aug. 16-18.

The NVL was founded in 2010 by Hermosa Beach resident Albert Hannemann who was among the top players in his 18-year career. For more information, visit thenvl.com.

 

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