Beach Teams Will Follow Different Paths

By B.J. Hoeptnter Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | July 24, 2018, 10:33 p.m. (ET)
Rileigh Powers / Lexy Denaburg celebrate during the Girls' 18U Final
Rileigh Powers, left, and Lexy Denaburg celebrate during their final match.
 

SIESTA KEY, Fla. (July 24, 2018) – The wind never let up, but neither did the players competing at the USA National Beach Tour - Junior Championships on Tuesday in Siesta Key.

Champions were crowned in the 14-and-under and 18U divisions on Tuesday in the final day of the event. The winners in every category were committed to beach volleyball as the sport that would take them to future podiums. But it may be harder for some than others.

With women’s college volleyball as an NCAA sport, players in the girls’ divisions clearly have college in their sites.

In the 18U Girls’ National final, Lexy Denaburg/Rileigh Powers (Florida Region) beat Abigail Hughes/Jordan Smith (Ohio Valley Region), 21-17, 21-15. Denaburg and Powers have committed to play for 2018 NCAA Champion UCLA’s beach team in 2019. On the other side of the net, Hughes is committed to play at Florida International and Smith at South Carolina.

“I think our ultimate goal is getting to the AVP Tour,” Denaburg said. “But we have to work hard for that.”

Girls’ 14U National winners Skylar Martin and Rebecca Watkins (Southern Region) also have a college beach career in their sights. In the final, Martin/Watkins came back from a first-set loss to beat Abigail Carian/Ashleigh Adams (Garden Empire Region), 17-21, 21-17, 15-7.

“It’s a lot more relaxed,” Watkins said of beach volleyball over indoor.

“You get to do everything in beach,” Martin added. “You learn how to be more in-contact with your partner.”

On the boys’ side, it is clear that the players will have to work a little harder if they want to pursue a career in beach volleyball.

Christian Phung and Kaleb Jenness (Chesapeake Region), the champions in the 18U Boys’ National final, love beach volleyball, but will have to play indoors in college because there is no college beach program for men.

“We’re going for the Olympics, all the way,” Jenness said. “We’re starting young.”

But to get there, Jenness will first play indoor volleyball for Ball State’s NCAA Division I men’s team and keep beach volleyball as a hobby. In fact, Jenness, who is from South Carolina, couldn’t even play indoor volleyball for his high school because boys' volleyball is not a varsity sport in the S.C. High School League. Jenness’s partner Christian Phung has signed to play libero for North Greenville’s men’s indoor team.

In the final, Phung and Jenness beat Jacob Justice and Jonathan Jacques, 21-11, 21-12.

Boys’ 14U National winners Christopher Connelly and Nico Paula (Florida Region) also have high hopes for their beach volleyball careers. In the final, Connelly and Paula beat Francisco Bonola-Pimentel and Leandro Cortado (Old Dominion Region), 21-14, 21-11.

“I would like to go as far as I can,” Paula said. “Hopefully in the future there will be an NCAA men’s program.”

“A career would be absolutely nice,” Connelly said. “Just do it full time, that’s my main goal.”

REGIONAL DIVISION CHAMPIONS

Girls’ 18U Regional Final: Logan Mosley/Skylar Buckley (Carolina Region) def Hailey Melerine/Konstance Garraway (Bayou Region), 21-17, 21-16

Girls’ 14U Regional Final: Helena Hebda/Mckenna Flaherty (Florida Region) def Rile Drew/Sarah Thompson (Chesapeake Region), 19-21, 21-19, 15-12

THIRD-PLACE MATCHES

Girls’ 18U National: Erin Murphy/Raelyn White def Madelyn Delmonte/Nadya Cortado, 21-17, 21-19

Boys’ 8U National: Heath Hughes/Trevor Kennan (Florida Region) def Nathan Levandoske/Vincent Giovingo (Bayou), 19-21, 21-7, 15-1

Girls’ 14U National: Allyson Williams/Mackenzie Murphy (Gateway) def Cassidy Rountree/Kendall Mather (Florida/Ohio), 11-21, 21-17, 15-12

Boys 14U National: Hunter Branenburg/Maxwell Tome (Central/Badger) def Jacob Yu/Matias Turunen (Chesapeake Region), 21-11, 22-20

Girls’ 18U Regional: Arianna Franklin/Kristen Klemeyer (Southern Region) def Gabrielle Brown/Isabella Brown (Rocky Mountain Region), 15-21, 21-16, 15-8

Girls’ 14U Regional: Lilly Tome/Sophia Kepler (Badger/Sun Country Regions) def Elise Estudillo/Riley Hill (Heart of America), 21-19, 21-15