The Volley Trolley Tour

What started as Jack and Dave's volleyball Tour in '04 has grown into VolleyTrolley Enterprises. We play beach volleyball and cruise around in a 1983 Airstream RV. It ain't terrible.

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Location: Venice Beach, California, United States

Monday, July 16, 2007

Feeling Almost Elite

Our fourth match of the qualifier -- the one to get in -- was back in town on the Stadium Court. We played a team coached by the Tournament Director. Young, but big: 6'8" and 6'3". The first game we took handily but the second got close. They began using some of our gimmicks like hitting on two. We took it 21-19 and were in the Slovak Elite Tour 16-Team Main Draw. We were borderline professional athletes.

Saturday. Game One. Stadium Court, Piestany, Slovakia. With zero seeding points, we faced the #1 seed team in the country. They crushed us in the first game. We took the second, but fell in the third down the home stretch. We were in the loser's bracket which meant we'd be back in the car to the off-site courts. We didn't, or couldn't have known how much of a treat we were in for.

The Ranc (Ranch) was the site of the prior day's meeting. With three courts and the infrastructure for a restaurant, bar, and concert stage, the place has possibilities. But it's definitely in the middle of nowhere. Abandoned farm lands surrounded us. And for some reason, in this land-locked country, the place had something we hadn't felt in weeks: wind.

It wouldn't be humble to say that we'd have finished better had the whole thing been played out here, but we would have. Three of our next five matches were there, and if there ever was a great situation to be in, playing Slovaks in the wind, for money, with Jack Quinn would be it. We marched through the bracket, making our way back to the stadium in town.

One more win would put us in the final. We had watched our opponants playing earlier in the day with some swirley weather coming in. The 6'7" blocker looked tired and a little awkward. But the air was as still as it wasn't at the Ranch, and the tall guy found his second wind. We lost a close deciding third game to put us in the bronze medal match.

With the sun out, the bleachers full, cameras rolling and clicking from everywhere, the match began. Both teams were tired -- it was our fourth match of the day after playing several the prior two. With tiredness, our style of play became even more different than our Slovak opponants'. Shots, looping serves, lots of digs -- by the crowd's reaction, the match was an interesting one to watch. We won the first game, lost the second, and were down 12-13 in the third when one of our opponants went down with a cramped-up quad. Medical time out and a great buzz going through the crowd.

He recovered and play continued -- for about another thirty minutes. I had a swing for the match after a crazy rally and went for it with foolish gusto -- into the net. They had several match points -- we kept chipping off their big blocker and hitting away from the cramping defender. Alas, the ending didn't go our way. But at least the tournament did. It was perhaps the most exciting match I'd been a part of, as I told the crowd when handed the mike before the gold medal match. Then, with some cajoling from Jack, I led the crowd in singing the Slovak national anthem. I'd learned it in high school, and it seemed appropriate. It also seemed to surprise the crowd -- especially the announcer.

So all in all, the tournament worked out. And the announcer, Juray, put us up in his apartment in Bratislava the next two nights. We had essentially won a free week in Slovakia, the opportunity to demonstrate come California beach volleyball in Eastern Europe, and some fantastic memories. We paid the next day for two hours of Thai massage, but it was absolutely worth it.


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