B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: (719) 228-6800
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 21, 2011) – The U.S. team of Emily Day (Torrance, Calif.) and Heather Hughes (Fallbrook, Calif.) has been named the USA Volleyball Beach Team of the Year for 2011.
Day, 24, and Hughes, 25, who both played indoor volleyball at Loyola Marymount University, spent the summer of 2011 barnstorming beach volleyball events around the United States and the world.
In total, the team played in 11 domestic tournaments – including a USA Volleyball International Development Qualifier, which it won – and five international. All the efforts of the young team were focused on making up the USAV Beach pipeline to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“Being able to play internationally and domestically this year was awesome,” said Hughes, for whom 2011 was the first full season on the beach. “Being able to get that experience; it helped out a lot. We’re appreciative that we were able to go to as many tournaments as we did.
“Definitely our ultimate goal is 2016. Everything we do is geared toward getting ready for 2016.”
Both players agreed that the highlights of their season were a silver medal at the World University Games in China, a third-place finish at the Manhattan Beach Open (part of the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Tour) and making it to the Pan American Games, where they finished fourth.
“I’m so glad we did what we did,” Day said. “For us, experience is something we both need to get, especially internationally. Our bodies held up and we had the time of our lives.”
The pair came close to playing in the final at Manhattan Beach, losing to Jennifer Fopma and Tracy Jones in the semifinals, 18-21, 21-18, 15-10. Manhattan Beach was not the team’s only domestic podium finish. It also finished third at the Corona Light Wide Open event in Chicago and at the National Volleyball League tournament in Malibu.
Internationally, Day and Hughes finished second at the NORCECA Beach Circuit event in Puerto Vallarta. They also came very close to a bronze medal at the Pan American Games, falling to Puerto Rico’s Yarleen Santiago and Yamileska Yantin, 21-16, 16-21, 15-7 in the third-place match.
Day credited the team’s good communication for its 2011 success.
“In general, Heather and I work really well because we’re good friends and communicate really well. Our work ethic is just the same,” she said. “It’s hard to find a partner who wants it as badly as you and is willing to do what it takes.”
Hughes added that each player also brings different strengths to the pairing.
“Off the court, Emily has exceptional organizational skills,” Hughes said. “She does a great job with time management and organizing the practice schedule and all those logistical things.
“On the court, I think she is more of the thinker. She focuses on what the other team is doing and how we should respond. I look at what our team is doing and what we can do better.”
Instead of being burned out from all their travels in 2011, both players are eager to get back to the beach.
“We’re looking forward to getting back out there,” Day said. “I’m super stoked to be in California and training. We want to hit the FIVB as much as we can. Any tournaments we can get into, we want to go play.”