Raleigh Hosts Beach Junior Tour Event

Deb Stadick
Intern, Communications
Phone: 719-228-6800
E-Mail: deb.stadick@usav.org

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 23, 2012)– The USA Beach Junior Tour moved to Raleigh, N.C., on May 19-20 for the Carolina Open.

This was the second year that the Carolina Open was run, and interest and participation have already increased.

The weather over the weekend was perfect for beach volleyball. With blue skies and temperatures in the 70s, the event drew more than 100 teams from three states.

The tournament was broken down into five divisions: Boys’ 18U, Girls’ 18U, Girls’ 16U, Girls’ 14U and Girls’ 12U. The Girls’ 14U division boasted the greatest turnout of the weekend with 40 teams showing up to compete. This high turnout was not unexpected. According to Tournament Director Mark Nalevanko, this seems to be a trend.

“The interest and depth of competition has skyrocketed in recent years,” Nalevanko said. “We’ve seen this especially in the 14s and 16s age divisions.”

This increased interest has contributed to a change in the structure of this year’s Carolina Open. The tournament introduced a consolation/silver bracket for the larger age divisions. This gave the participants a chance to play more matches and be more engaged with the event.

To further motivate kids to participate in the Beach Junior Tour, the tournament introduced a prize. The top three teams from each age division were entered in a drawing for a travel stipend, valued at around $500. This stipend will help cover the cost of travel to the Beach Junior Tour National Championship this July in Milwaukee.

With the increased participation and added incentive, competition was intense during the two-day event. The tournament started Saturday with the 16U and 18U age groups.

The 18U age division is one that always promises fierce competition. The athletes are usually seniors in high school. Many are preparing for college-level volleyball next fall, and have been pushing themselves hard all season. The 18U age division is also the last year a team can qualify for the Beach Junior National Championship.

The Boys’ 18U age division showcased this competitiveness. Abram Hyatt and Dustin Rhodes claimed third place. Second place went to the team of Brendan Smith and Joseph Lucedo, who lost to Kyle Warfel and Benjamin Hutsell in the championship match. Hutsell said that their matches were close, and oftentimes they fell behind four or five points. It was their determination to compete at nationals that pushed them to success.

“Kyle and I had our minds set on going to nationals.” Hutsell said. “I'm so stoked to be able to go, and I can't wait to see what the competition will be like there.”

The Girls’ 18U age division also exhibited some fierce competition. Third-place honors in this intense division went to Michelle Hovey and Cheyenne Tavana. The battle for gold was fought between four club teammates. Megan Gravley and Christina Vucich defeated Sasha Karelov and Awele Nwaeze in the championship match to claim first place. Megan Gravely talks about winning the Carolina Open for the second consecutive year.

“Christina and I have played beach together for about two years now and love playing in environments such as the Carolina Open,” Gravley said. “It’s awesome to be able to play against great, competitive teams.”

The pair has also earned their second trip to the USAV Beach Nationals, where they finished third last year.

In the Girls’ 16U age division also showcased highly-competitive volleyball. Ally Beckman and Margot Ruffieux took third place, and thus the right to have their names entered in the travel stipend raffle. First-place bragging rights went to the 14U team of Genna Simpkins and Kylie Grandy. The duo played “up” in the 16U age division even though they were young enough to be qualified as a 14U team. In the championship match, they defeated Kaitlyn Smith and Katelyn McCullough in a three-set thriller. The score of the third set was 16-14.

The second day of the Carolina Open hosted teams in the 14U and 12U age divisions.

Since the 16U and 14U age divisions were held on different days, Simpkins and Grandy competed in both tournaments. They finished the Carolina Open with first-place bragging rights in not one, but two age divisions. After winning the 16U age division Saturday, the pair went on to win the 14U age division on Sunday.

Simpkins and Grandy cinched the 14U first-place title when they defeated Raquel Rooney and Taylor Warnock in the championship match. Third place in the 14U age division went to Mia Fradenburg and Katja Ehlers.

In the youngest age division of the tournament, the Girls’ 12U team of Erin Westberg and Elizabeth Scheer came in third place. The championship match pitted the team of Avery Bugg and Holli Smith against Kara Adams and Sarah Gasper. Adams and Gasper walked away victorious. Bugg and Smith claimed second place.