Volleyball's new editor, Megan Kaplon, is heading out to the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, California, tomorrow to watch the FIVB Grand Slam competition, play in the amateur tournaments, and report back about all the other fun activities surrounding the huge annual event. Follow her adventures here!
Although the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, otherwise known as the Long Beach Grand Slam, kicked off yesterday with the qualifier competition (Congrats to Americans Christal Engle, Heather Hughes, Theo Brunner, Todd Rogers, Avery Drost, and Casey Jennings who made it into the main draw!), my Long Beach adventure doesn't start until tomorrow. You can follow along with all the WSOBV happenings here on volleyballmag.com, and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.
There’s a lot going on in the next five days, and I'm pumped for every single bit of it (well, except maybe that six hour flight from Boston to Cali), but these are the highlights I’m most looking forward to.
1. Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat
These two athletes have definitely impressed me halfway through their first summer as partners, especially in their incredibly competitive match against Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross in the AVP Milwaukee final. I can’t wait to see them tear it up on the international stage, perhaps even top their fifth place finish from the Stavanger Grand Slam.
2. Nicole Branagh
Nicole Branagh ran the domestic scene with former partner Elaine Youngs a few years back and even scored a few international titles with Walsh Jennings. After taking a year off of competition she’s back and playing with Whitney Pavlik in the WSOBV. At the AVP Milwaukee Open three weeks ago, Branagh took fifth with Amanda Dowdy. Look for another stellar performance with defensive dynamo Pavlik this week.
3. Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy
These Italian stallions began the 2014 FIVB season with two straight gold medals. In last year’s Long Beach Grand Slam, they took the bronze medal over Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb. At only 23 and 25 years old, respectively, this young, athletic duo is a delight to watch and they’ve already proved they perform well in front of the American fans. I don’t even feel guilty for cheering them on at this stage since they’re in one of only two men’s pools without an American team in it.
4. WSOBV 6-Man on Saturday
One of the highlights for me last year was the men’s and women’s 6-Man tournament. With rosters stacked with former and current pros from the U.S. and around the world, the top six-man teams are incredibly entertaining to watch. The speed of indoor with the swagger of beach—what more could you ask for? The only downside is that 12 people on the court dig up even more dust from the Long Beach sand than four.
This band has exploded since the WSOBV announced it would be performing on Friday night. Their track “Rude” currently tops the Billboard chart (the first reggae song to hit No. 1 in seven years according to Slate). I remember playing a pick up match during the Capital Cities concert last year, and I think MAGIC! will provide equally stimulating background music for some volleyball competition. Don’t think I’m putting them down here, that’s a high complement as far as I’m concerned, I just know where my priorities are, and I only get so many days out of the year to play beach volleyball on Southern California beaches.
6. The Queen Mary
I’m also very excited to set up camp at the Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner that sailed from 1936 to 1967 and now functions as a tourist attraction and hotel. During World War II, the Queen Mary was drafted into the service, providing transportation for Allied soldiers from New Zealand and Australia to the U.K., so it’s got some serious history, and they say it’s haunted. Now permanently docked in Long Beach Harbor, the Queen Mary will be my home for the weekend. I’ll let you know if I spot any ghosts.