Monday, August 25, 2014: Beach volleyball is alive and thriving in Canada, as evidenced by the swarms of young athletes that took over Ashbridges Bay in Toronto this past weekend for the 2014 Beach Nationals.
Fans packed the centre court grandstand and surrounding seating area to take in the Adult medal rounds. The women’s final was a hotly contested match that saw Ali Woolleey and Charlotte Sider (ON) defeat Brandie Wilkerson and Claudia Seguin (ON) 21-18, 21-19 to capture the gold medal.
The men’s draw finished in surprising fashion with Garrett May and Dan Dearing (ON) completely dominating Andrew Hinchey and Ryan Vandenburg (ON) in the final 21-13, 21-14, after rolling through their semi final match in similar fashion. In the bronze medal match Dan Beleznay and Ryan Gandy (BC) denied the Ontario sweep by defeating Aaron Nusbaum and Eric Simon in a tight three set match 24-22, 21-17, 15-10.
Aside from the men’s and women’s adult divisions, the true spirit of the Beach Nationals tournament could be found throughout the younger age divisions. We spoke to many young athletes from across the country, all with their own unique volleyball upbringing. Megan Kalbfleish and her partner Kass Gosse (16U Girls) were experiencing their first ever beach tournament. They hail from Newfoundland where their beach courts consist of more rocks than sand. Explained Kalbfleish: “We have a new start up club called Far East Volleyball, we have four teams, so we decided to come play. It’s fun!” In response to playing against teams from all over Canada she added, “it’s really different. In Newfoundland you know everybody so it’s different playing girls you don’t know.” Kalbfleish and Gosse finished 8th in tier 1.
David Lazarev and Ryan Hutchinson of Vaughan, Ontario were competing for the first time at Nationals in the 22U Boys division. “There’s a variety of teams and you get to gain so much experience,” said Lazarev. The pair finished fourth, losing in three sets to a team from BC.
An incredible story came out of Quebec from a team of twin brothers, Phillipe and Simone Dupuis-Coutts (14U Boys). This was their first time playing at Nationals and in Ontario. “The volleyball is different, the players are tougher and more experienced,” said Phillipe. The boys, who drove 16 hours from Sept-Iles, QC to play, only practice with each other – there is no club where they live (seven hours from Quebec City). Though they didn’t fare so well in competition, the pair may have found a role model in adult gold medalist Dan Dearing or “the trampoline guy” as they called him referring to his impressive vertical. “I hope I can jump like that some day,” said Phillipe.
Cobourg, Ontario’s Emily Hacker and Kennedy McMahon didn’t have nearly as far to travel but still made the most of their Nationals experience. The pair won gold in the 18U Girls tier 2 division and credited their success to some superstitious tactics. “When I wore my bronze (coloured) hair elastic we won bronze, when I wore my silver we won silver so today I wore my gold one,” said Hacker referring to their OVA Beach Tour success this season. They also felt their Batman and Robin tank tops helped in some way. “We had loads of fun and the energy was fantastic. We’ve had tons of laughs and that’s what it’s all about,” said McMahon.
By Jason Jackson, Ontario Volleyball Association