No one knows USA Volleyball Open Nationals better than the players and fans who attend each year. So, instead of sending one of our photographers down to Louisville, Ky., to cover the event, we asked you guys to send us your best photos and tell us about your 2013 Nationals experience.
These are some of our favorite entries.
David Jester is the official photographer of the PVL and for the Florida Region of USA Volleyball.
What team did you come with? Florida Wave
What division? PVL / Open
How did your team do at nationals? Silver for the women, gold for the men
How many years have you attended nationals? First year!
What did you think of Louisville? Liked it a lot. Clean town and Expo Center was fantastic! As a photographer I loved the lighting!
What was your favorite Nationals moment from this year? My teams won silver and gold!!! Also enjoyed meeting many outstanding volleyball athletes and making friends with them.
This was my very first Nationals! Unfortunately, I was not introduced to the sport until late in life (through recreational leagues in and around NYC). It is fair to say, though, that once I started playing I was hooked, even traveling to Athens in ’04 and around the U.S. for FIVB World League stops to see high-level volleyball. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Connecticut and discovered the leagues run by the Connecticut Sports Center (CSC), and the great group of people who play there, that I learned about Nationals, and it sounded like an absolute blast. Then, when I found out that Lloy Ball was putting a team together to compete in the open class this year, I knew I just had to check it out, freshly sprained ankle or not.
So I headed to Louisville to support the Connecticut-affiliated teams and Team Pineapple [Ball’s team]. Unfortunately, I definitely underestimated the sheer number of games and missed a lot of the action in the non-open divisions, but I did catch Sets Panther (Women’s B) who won gold in the bronze division despite the libero and one of the outsides having to swap roles in the final due to a back injury (!), and I saw Team Motorboat (Men’s B). In the open division, I rooted primarily for Team Pineapple and Team GoNation (they have a Connecticut connection via the Goncalves brothers, Kevin and Danny).
Louisville was a cool city; the people were friendly, the weather was great, and all major attractions were within a manageable radius. I’ll never forget stumbling upon a Jody Watley concert on 4th Street.
I have two favorite memories from Nationals, both from the finals. One was Team Pineapple coming back from being down two sets to one AND down 21-24 in set 4 to force a fifth set versus Team Florida Wave. The other was a broken play in that fifth set when Jeff Ptak of Team Pineapple annihilated a ball against two blockers off of a bump set from Lloy from maybe 30 feet away...Crazy!
All in all, it was a great experience and I will definitely be in Phoenix in 2014, both on the courts and in the stands!
As a visitor from abroad I can only say that I was quite impressed with many things: just about 5,000 players were confronted with what I think was perfect organization. All kind of medical support was prepared, a food court in the lobby provided the participants with everything, and over 200 refs made sure that the competitions could operate smoothly.
The matches showed all levels: in the open class there were wonderful teams like the Team Pineapple, with the ex-internationals Lloy Ball and Riley Salmon, which showed real high class volleyball – same with the top women’s teams. But also the older teams impressed me: seeing the over-50, over-60, even over-70 teams – great. Physically, of course no longer with full power, but mentally [these players were] absolutely great. As I strolled by I saw after a couple of seconds that these “girls and boys” knew the game, held their positions, had a plan, were fully motivated ... and had a lot of fun.
Favorite moments? To see the emotions, the will to win, the comradeship, the support for each other – wonderful sport. Pure volleyball, pure enthusiasm.
Air Force Alumni Men’s 40s and 50s Teams
This was the first time we officially got together and put Air Force on our uniforms, although a few of us played in the 50s division for the previous two years. This was the second year with the 40s group getting together and we tried to combine our teams a little this year to build more camaraderie. The goal is to get old AF vball players together – some that played AF and Armed Forces and some that did not get that opportunity but are very good solid players back then and now.
As I mentioned, several of us have played in the 50s division the past three years. This year, putting the AF on the back and supplementing our team with more old AF guys must have done the trick because this was by far our best finish yet (fifth out of 22 teams and first in silver). Our only two losses came to teams finishing second and fourth. We are excited about continuing this tradition and our goal will be to eventually win the gold in our divisions as long as it does not get in the way of us having fun. Winning is not the reason we got this together, but once the ball gets served, all our competitive juices get going (even if our bodies don’t respond like they used to).
It’s just a lot of fun playing with these guys, to go back in time and tell and hear some of the old stories. It is a lot about the old all-AF teams but also just AF volleyball in general, since back in the day many of us competed in command tournaments and other base-level competitions together and against each other.
This year we dedicated our team to Harvey Richardson who passed away last year. He played with several of us back in the late ’80s and early ’90s and also suited up again in the later ’90s. He was a tremendous player and friend, one of the all-time great players for Air Force and Armed Forces with a tremendous vertical and a great competitive spirit. He would have turned 50 this past year and would probably have joined us.
Louisville was great. The 50s team rented a house close [to the Expo Center] and that worked out great. We were able to compete and then come back and chill out and barbecue out and just have fun telling old stories to each other.
Hopefully we will be the start of the other services doing the same thing. It would be great to see more of our other service players also at these events. On a personal note, I think the two of us that took the most pride in this was Sammy Nimpchaimanatham and me. We have both been a part of over 20-25 AF teams over the past 25 or so years as players and coaches, so to get this team together and continue the AF tradition was awesome. We hope to keep this tradition up and hopefully eventually get AF sports to jump in and support us.
Originally published in August 2013