Helping Kerri and Misty prepare for London

The Olympic Beach Volleyball competition has begun! On the first day of competition, Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor played their first match of pool play. In anticipation of another great Olympics, we asked Mike Nelson to share his recent experience on the sand with the pair. Mike’s report from Huntington Beach follows.

We all know that Kerri and Misty are going for their third straight gold medal in London. They are back-to-back Olympic champions and living legends in the sport of beach volleyball. During their 2004 and 2008 gold medal runs, the pair won 112 consecutive matches, never losing a set during the Beijing Games. In advance, Misty announced that London would be her last run at the Olympics.

I knew that Kerri and Misty had been training against men’s teams to prepare for London. My recent playing partner alerted me that he had set up a session with them, and I was happy to play.

It was fun to see the entourage that comes with a practice with the two most recognizable faces in the sport of beach volleyball. A couple of high school girls were there to retrieve balls and several other girls watched the practice. They also had two coaches there to work with them. Not surprisingly, a number of people watched from the boardwalk and the Huntington Beach pier.

We did several serving and setting drills before we played a couple of games. Needless to say, they were solid in all aspects of the game. Our only advantage was that we were playing on a women’s net, which of course seemed low compared to our usual experience playing on the men’s net. During the practice, the coaches mentioned certain things that they would need to do to win gold in London and that they were there to work on them with our help. As you would expect, they were both very focused. 

Kerri and Misty won gold in the FIVB tournament that followed our workout with them. The tourney was in Gstaad, Switzerland during the second week of July. My partner and I jokingly took some of the credit for the win because of our recent training session. We hope they will win gold in London so that we can continue the great story. 

It was a unique opportunity to meet and train with Misty and Kerri. While the volleyball was really fun, I think my partner and I have had more fun since sharing the experience with other fans, including the Wasatch Beach Volleyball community. I know we all look forward to watching Kerri and Misty during the Olympics, as well as the other 3 U.S. beach volleyball pairs. Go U.S.A.!

Dropping in on The Waupaca Boatride – the world’s largest volleyball tourney

Some of the crowd preparing to watch the grass Open finals

On the second weekend in July, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the annual Waupaca Boatride in my hometown of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The unusual name for this multi-event tourney stems from its history in the resort town of Waupaca, Wisconsin. Oh yeah, in the early days there was apparently an associated boatride. Years ago, the tourney outgrew Waupaca and was moved initially to the larger resort area of Wisconsin Dells, about an hour north of Madison. Then, two years ago the event was relocated to Oshkosh. This year, it was played on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), adjacent to the Oshkosh airport.

Also new this year was an affiliation with the NVL, increased prize money, and the construction of 4 sand courts on the EAA grounds to host the Women’s and Men’s Open Divisions. Out of necessity, the Women’s and Men’s A divisions were held offsite at a local sports bar. Vooli, Plastic and Oakley were at the event getting the word out.

The Waupaca Boatride, which is also called the U.S. Open of Grass Volleyball, consists of a number of events:

• Butch (father of Misty) May’s clinic for young women prior to the start of the tourney
• Sand doubles and co-ed grass 4s on Friday
• Grass 3s on Saturday (the single biggest event)
• Grass doubles, co-ed sand doubles and reverse co-ed grass 4s on Sunday

More than 900 teams were expected, spanning all of the events. While most of the draw is from the upper Midwest, some teams travel from the coasts for the party, which is in many ways a huge reunion. As you can see from the accompanying images of the finals of the Open sand doubles and grass 3s, the crowd was big, highly engaged, and very sociable. Many of the teams camped on the EAA grounds for part or all of the weekend.

On the sand in Men’s Open, top-seeded pros Dana Camacho and Andrei Belov were upset in the finals by Brian and Tim Bomgren. Impressively, the Bomgrens and their partner were also top seeds in the grass 3s event on Saturday, but lost in the finals to the team they had beaten to win that division last year. In the Women’s Open, Chara Harris and Megan Wallin defeated Laryssa Mereszczak and Andrea Peterson. All four teams earned an automatic entry into the MotherLode on Labor Day weekend, so if you’re traveling to Aspen, keep an eye out for these teams.

Watching the Women's Open sand finals

At least two of the teams that competed in the Open sand division traveled Friday night to compete on Saturday in the Jose Cuervo Tour Stop in Chicago. It was a big weekend for volleyball in the Midwest.

The Waupaca Boatride is a tourney to put on your volleyball bucket list and one to keep an eye on, particularly given the new affiliation with the NVL.

Big crowd for the grass Open finals on Saturday night