RENO, Nev. (June 29, 2013) – Quite a crowd had gathered around the championship court at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center during the 2013 USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior National Championships (BJNC). But instead of BJNC matches, spectators were treated to the first annual Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Men’s Championship.
“We started this [league] to create an opportunity for post-collegiate athletes in the United States to be able to play the highest level of volleyball possible right here on their own soil,” PVL President and Team Florida Wave General Manager Steve Bishop said.
PVL was started two years ago with 12 women’s teams. That number grew to 15 this season. The concept was popular enough to carry over to the men’s side, and the inaugural five teams are in Reno to compete. Teams are fielded from USA Volleyball regions with the current men’s teams hailing from the New England, Western Empire, Great Lakes, Florida and Northern California regions.
“To know we’re a part of something that could potentially change volleyball in the United States is just pretty cool,” Team Florida Wave captain Mike Iandolo said. “We realize it a little bit now, but if this takes off and becomes what it should be and can be, just being able to look back and say we were a part of the first one, and playing well and being in a position to be able to win the first one… I mean, you can’t really ask for anything better than that.”
Team Florida Wave Head Coach Steve Benson has been a part of the PVL since it was nothing more than an idea in Bishop’s mind. He’s just as happy as his players are to get the chance to grow the game.
“Being here is just great,” Benson said. “Having this is just great. Being successful [as a team] is just icing on the cake. Because the success of the program is bigger than my team being successful or another team being successful. It’s about creating an opportunity for volleyball to grow at a professional level.”
Holding the PVL Championship at the BJNC is a key piece in the strategy of promoting professional volleyball in the United States.
“We wanted to showcase the athletes here with the Boys’ Juniors and let the junior athletes see that there’s something else for them to do once they finish up their collegiate careers,” Bishop said. “It’s a big crowd, a big opportunity for the kids to come and see, especially if they have a team here from their home region that they can come and cheer on.”
Many of the PVL athletes competed at the BJNC when they were younger. Coming back to play professionally allows them to see the experience in a whole new way.
Iandolo played club volleyball for Orlando Gold for five years and competed at the BJNC each year.
“This is one of the coolest things you can do as a kid,” Iandolo said. “And coming back and being able to play in front of them is pretty cool too. A lot of guys watching are kids that I used to coach, and a lot of guys are coming to watch people that they know.”
Between matches, players competing at the BJNC stopped by to watch Team Florida Wave take on Team Western Empire and Great Lakes Lights Out face off against Team New England.
“It’s fun to watch,” Brian Endres of AZ Fear 14 White said. “It motivates me to play harder.”
Iandolo hopes that the young players are excited about the PVL and advises them to play as much volleyball as possible if they want to succeed.
“Beach, grass, indoor. It doesn’t matter. Just play,” he said. “And always push. Don’t think you’re just okay and you’re always going to stay okay. Try to do things even if you fail at them, and just always play.”
For the PVL live stream schedule, click here