MASON, Ohio – It was bathing suit weather at The Beach Waterpark from July 10 to July 12. But a handful of those in attendance weren’t there to just splash around in the park’s numerous pools and water slides.
They were to there to spike volleyballs, serve up aces and win a share of $50,000.
On Saturday, Americans Brooke Niles and Jessica Stubinski upset defending women’s champions Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima (Brazil) and Karolina Sowala (Poland) to claim victory at the National Volleyball League’s 2014 Midwest Championships at the water park in Mason.
Niles and Stubinski, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, won the final match 17-21, 21-19, 17-15.
The three-day event also featured a men’s tournament, which was won by the ninth-seeded pair of Matt Henderson (USA) and Piotr Marciniak (Poland). They swept No. 2 seeds Drew Mallin and Dave Palm, 21-15, 21-15.
The Midwest Championships included top pro beach volleyball players from around the world competing for a $50,000 prize purse.
All of the matches are available on-demand on the NVL Network. They're free to watch.
“This was our second year hosting the Midwest Championships at The Beach Waterpark and it was an ideal venue to showcase the talents of NVL players from all levels in an outstanding volleyball facility,” commented league founder and CEO, Albert Hannemann.
The tournament concluded with the NVL’s standard “Saturday Night Lights” format, featuring evening men’s and women’s finals followed by an appropriately named "beach party."
Musical recording artist Kelley James, the official voice of the NVL, performed for fans and players on the main stage.
“We were able to provide a fun, family-friendly atmosphere which offered a variety of competitions and entertainment with plenty of player-fan interaction throughout the weekend," said Hannemann whose goal is to grow the game in the United States.
Spokesperson Beth Miller said league officials picked The Beach for multiple reasons, including the fact believe Greater Cincinnati is a hotbed for youth volleyball. It doesn't hurt that the region is a longstanding stop for the more well-known AVP Tour (Aug. 28-31) .
But Miller says the league likes to set up events at venues like amusement parks because those places attract their own crowds, which gives the league a unique chance to lure new fans.
"NVL always looks to partner with venues that have a built-in crowd like The Beach and for example, next month they'll be at IndyFest," she said.
Performing at amusement parks and festivals "exposes the sport to people that may not be familiar with beach volleyball and the league can help grow the sport's fan base."
The tournament in Mason is one of six professional events on the NVL calendar in 2014. All of them are at festivals or popular entertainment venues. (full schedule below)
Miller said the reason for the U.S.-centric schedule is intended to promote growth of the beach version of the game in this country.
“Established in 2010, the National Volleyball League is a professional beach volleyball league built by players for all players, united in one mission: to create a sustainable future for pro beach volleyball in the U.S,” the league's mission statement reads.
Hannemann said the NVL aims to accomplish this goal through their professional events, as well as a nationwide grassroots beach series and a first-of-its-kind beach volleyball academy.
“The NVL is the only national platform for current professionals and players of all levels to showcase their talents and pursue their aspirations in the sport,” Hannemann said. “Driven by a pure passion to grow the game and share the love of the sport and beach culture, the NVL is the ‘Soul of Beach Volleyball.’”
Remaining schedule for 2014
Aug. 15–17: Milwaukee, Wisconsin– Milwaukee IndyFest
Sept. 19–21: Hermosa Beach, California – Hermosa Beach Pier
Oct. 3–4: Port St. Lucie, Florida – Club Med Sandpiper Bay