By Matt Bieker for USA Volleyball
Power on the Court: Team Great Lakes Lights Out
RENO, Nev. (July 1, 2013) - Great Lakes Lights Out, a Men’s Premier Volleyball League team competing this week in the inaugural PVL Championship in Reno, Nev., is hard to miss on the tournament floor. With its towering starting lineup and explosive ball handling, Lights Out is a testament to the athleticism exhibited by this sport. Coach Nick Altier spoke about the history of the team and his involvement the PVL.
Coach Altier has been involved with volleyball for about 40 years, with 20 of them spent coaching; Altier has been involved with Lights Out since the team’s inception when team setter Harshil Thaker brought the prospect to his attention.
“We’ve added a few players with [the tournament],” Altier said. “Some guys that came back from Europe, some guys who were here last year … they’re all the guys who are going to be on the team next year.”
Altier coached the team to victory at the 2012 USA Volleyball Open National Championships Men’s Open division, and is confident in the chemistry he sees on his side of the court. He believes that the PVL in particular is offering his players something important.
“We’ve been involved from the beginning, we’re very thrilled to be a part of this program,” he said. “The PVL offers some kind of professional volleyball to players on a national level … this is a great experience and a great thing for USA volleyball.”
Altier hopes to bring the Lights Out’s national exposure back to Chicago, and host several local tournaments—including competing in the Best of the Midwest tournament in February.
Altier and Lights Out received ample support from their region and thriving volleyball playing community in Chicago, and he intends to make this community even more aware of Lights Out’s success.
“Like any sponsor that’s giving money, they’re going to want to know what they’re getting for their dollar … we had an open practice, and we had about 200 or 300 people show up and watch us play,” Altier said.
Altier believes that his team’s success is built upon the spirit of community and pride that he sees in his players, many of whom have returned from professional careers in Europe to help bolster their home team.
The Lights Out continue to be a dominating force in this tournament and are working hard to bring the championship back to Chicago, and remain a challenge to any competitor.
Year-round Player: Kyle Masterson
Name: Kyle Masterson
Team: Great Lakes Lights Out
Position: Middle Blocker
Kyle Masterson originally grew up playing basketball, only joining the volleyball team in to work on his vertical jump. He found talents better suited to the sport and began playing club in highschool. Soon after, he was offered a scholarship to Penn State University.
“After graduation, I decided to go try to play in Europe and I’ve played professionally in Europe for—I just finished my third season,” said Masteron.
The volleyball seasons in Europe are typically around eight months long, meaning that Masterson finds himself away from home more often than not.
“I’ve played in three different countries: my first year I was in Sweden, after that I went to Belgium and then I just finished up in Denmark last year,” said Masterson.
Playing eight months out of the year, in another country no less, might wear on any player—but when team representative Harshil Thaker was choosing the lineup for the Lights Out, Masterson was eager to accept his invitation.
Masterson was part of the team that won the championship in Denmark last year, and intends to return to Europe in the fall, but is equally committed to return to the Lights Out in 2014.
“Hopefully [the PVL] it takes off well,” said Masterson. “Hopefully it grows to be a big success. I know some of the guys in Europe only go for a year—they can’t handle being away from their friends and family for eight months.”
Masterson is an experienced player who performs his role on the court with practiced precision, and while he has made a living for himself overseas, is committed to representing his region here in the US as well.
Hometown Heroes: Team Norcal Premier
RENO, Nev. (July 1, 2013) - Team Norcal hails from one of the single largest regions in the country, whose reach includes the city of Reno and the current venue for the PVL tournament: the Reno-Sparks Convention center. Coach Joe Tolentino recounts his team’s experiences in the tournament so far, and their plans to spread the word about PVL play in California.
After 20 years of coaching, coach Tolentino has seen the game change in the past few decades, but he has never seen anything quite like the PVL. After a lucrative career in a technological start-up business, Tolentino fell back into coaching and playing after his children were born.
After coaching two high school teams, both men and women, to success, he began coaching club teams. After coach Peter Yee informed Tolentino of Norcal’s intention to compete, he came on board as co-head coach.
“I said: ‘oh, I want to be a part of it.’ They said: ‘oh, you’ve got to do it pro-bono, you’re not going to get much, maybe a shirt or a jacket.’ It doesn’t matter, I just want to be a part of it,” Tolentino said.
Norcal gathered talent from all over the states of California and Nevada, but the sheer size of the region made it difficult for the team to actually meet up at first.
“Oh it’s far,” said Tolentino, “some of our guys drive three hours to practice.”
The tournament has been a learning experience for Norcal so far. Preliminary matches delivered a disappointing record for the team, but with a victory over Team New England earlier this morning, Tolentino believes his players are learning well.
“They just had to get to know each other,” Tolentino said. “The setter, the hitter, how they want their sets … unfortunately, we didn’t go to the (USA Volleyball Open National Championships) so we didn’t get to try those things out at high-level ball. The first half of this tournament was really experimentation, so hopefully we’re going to flourish from here on out.”
Regardless of Norcal’s ultimate performance in this week’s tournament, coach Tolentino has plans to spread the word about Norcal volleyball in his region, and plans to come back next season stronger than ever.
“I’m seeing bright things for the team in 2014 … I want to pull some [Southern California players] up and have this amazing, true Californian all-star team that could compete with maybe the national or even international level … to do that, you need the best of the best.”
Tolentino hopes to host at least two tournaments for potential players next year, and is confident that Team Norcal is at the beginning of something great.
Name: Vincent Tuminelli
Team: Norcal Premier
Position: Outside Hitter
Originally from Huntington, N.Y., Vincent Tuminelli began his volleyball career in middle school when his coach showed him the fun of the sport, which inspired him to begin playing club in high school. After high school, he played four years on Princeton University’s NCAA Division I team.
He and his fiancé—whom he met at Princeton, also playing volleyball—moved to Berkeley after graduation for her continued studies, where he started coaching club. His involvement in the Northern California volleyball community led to his position on team Norcal.
“I got on this email list, and met some other people out here through coaching … I went to the tryout, and ever since then we’ve had an email list trying to get practices together,” Tuminelli said.
The early days of Team Norcal saw frequent changes to the team roster, with many players coming and going, but Tuminelli continues to be a staple for the team’s offense and defense.
“I thought of the idea of going over-seas professionally,” Tuminelli said. “I knew they [the PVL] were trying to start a higher level program so I was excited and was on board for it.”
Tuminelli’s experience lends itself well to a team where many players perform multiple jobs on the court.
“We definitely have an interesting mix of guys … I think we have a lot of utilitarian players who can kind of do everything—well-rounded, athletic guys,” he said.
Tuminelli’s experience at this week’s tournament has made him eager for next season, and establishing a more efficient, rhythmic team.
“I think we’re going to start up as early as we can for next year … getting a set practice schedule, facility, early on so players can make that commitment right way with no surprises,” Tuminelli said.
As this tournament draws to a close on Tuesday, Tuminelli remains focused and ready to draw from the tremendous energy exhibited by his teammates—and competition.