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.

My Photo
Location: Venice Beach, California, United States

Monday, July 21, 2008

Eyes Smiling in Ireland

"Hi! We're beach volleyball players from California. We're ranked somewhere between 30-40 on the AVP Tour. We're traveling in Europe for six weeks this summer -- do you know of any tournaments we could play in?"

I sent this email to about twenty different countries' volleyball federations. Didn't realize that the paragraph above, along with this website, would be our application to be featured pros in an Irish exhibition.

For four days we were busy promoting, playing, commentating, and enjoying beach volleyball at its best. Not its highest level, mind you, but its best.

The 'beach' in Bray, 45 minutes south of Dublin, is made up of boulders, each roughly the size of a... volleyball. But inland of the 'beach' is a concrete strand, followed by a wide swath of grass. Feature Court was some great sand placed on the grass, just accross from our hotel. Not a difficult commute.

The equivilent of a 3-ring circus took place on Feature Court for the Coca Cola Volleyball Festival, run by Volleyball Ireland and the Bray Summer Festival. About every 30 minutes one match would end and another, in an entirely different format, would begin. Jack and I played in a King Of the Beach (everyone plays with everyone) with Tristin from England and Aaron from Australia. Some American friends played a Queen of the Beach: Kathleen Madden, Kirstin Olsen, Angela Lewis, and Janelle Koester. Between our games, the top Irish pairs duked it out for national honors. That's four divisions already, but as stated, this was a condensed 3-ring circus.

A couple grass courts were set up just outside the arena, and an International 6x6 co-ed tournament was concurrently underway. The finals were moved in front of the crowds on the Feature Court. Eight members of Ireland's Special Olympic volleyball team joined the 'international' beach pros for a couple games. And a bevy of Irish celebrities -- some pro athletes and some hopefully talented in other areas -- also took the court for some volleying.

Difficult to pick a highlight, but this one stands out. Eric, a 5'2 Special Olympian who split time between commentating and playing, was on my team. After a spectacular rally, ended by Eric with a nice line shot to the corner, he peeled off his shirt, flexed, then high-fived each of us on his team. Then to be fair, he crossed under the net to celebrate with each of our opponants. Then he acknowledge the crowd, now standing and screaming in support. The game was tied at this point. But with that kind of momentum, the final point was just a formality. Each male player on our team was now Brandi Chastained and celebrating in solidarity.

That was a highlight. But so was taking on six of the Irish celebs with our co-ed team of professional players. None of the celebs were famous for their volleyball skills so we naturally had to even things out by running plays. One play called for a six-person I-formation serve receive. As the serve was hit, we'd randomly scatter to pass, set, and crush it down. Another serve receive involved us jogging in a circle as long as possible. I don't think the celebs took offence of our playing around (we still dominated them) but I was having too much fun to notice...

Here's the 'official' coverage about it:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Piestany Pressure

I'd researched some hotels and smaller places (called Pensions) to crash in. The few alongside the center court were pricey or full, so we grabbed a taxi. Over the next 90 minutes, we had popped into over a dozen places, finding them either pricey or full. We ended up getting dropped off exactly where we'd hailed the cab, which the driver found pretty amusing. We checked into a pricey hotel for the night, and had reserved a nice Pension a lovely 5-minute walk across the river from the main court for the following three nights. The town of Piestany is world-famous for its thermal mud, spas, massage -- we were going to stick around regardless of performance. And the dollar goes further in Slovakia than even in Czech Republic.

We didn't talk much about our prospects in the qualifier. There wasn't much point: if we lost again in the qualifier there'd be no reason to even find out what prize money we'd missed out on. The Tournament Director Shaff picked us up the following morning and drove us 10 minutes to an abandoned cross between a Medevil Times restaurant and a prairy farm house. After the meeting, held in Slovak, we again got in the car and headed to a different site to our court. Three out of twenty teams in the Qualifier would advance. Since our location had only one court, our bracket of eight teams would only produce one Qualifier. Yikes.

In our first game we were as focused as could be -- I hardly realized until after the match that our opponants were high school aged and not super strong. We badly needed the vic.

Our second opponants were two big guys who obviously played quite a bit. Probably more indoor, but it was an overcast still day -- not many beach elements to deal with. Jack and I sided out well and were at 7-all in the first game when I had a terrible, or great thought creeping into my head: 'We could lose to this team.' This team was stronger than the one we'd lost to in Pnov. We could be eliminated in the qualifier of two small land-locked countries without long histories in beach volleyball. And losing this early would mean not even getting a workout in for the day.

I decided to whack a few jump serves, and the difference between my usual fluff serve and the whacking seemed to set them off kilter. So did Jack running off the court and onto the grass to set a dig of mine. We got a couple point lead and held 'em off to take the first game.

Normally Jack serves first for us but I began game two at the service line. We got up two-nil at which point I drilled a serve into the net. But the seed was sown -- they were arguing about whose ball was whose on serve receive, and Jack took full advantage. He floated the dominant player some serves practically down the middle. With that player now crowding the middle, Jack mixed in one down the now-vacant sideline, which was foul-tipped into the not-so-nearby hedge. An earned 2-0 vic for me and Jack. No Airstream, but we were getting rolling...