By Jim Beaird for VolleyballMag.com
When the AVP and the underlying AVP America tournaments were canceled for multiple months, a group of beach volleyball fans started talking about how they could help some of the players recoup earnings that disappeared due to the cancellation of tournaments.
Erik Greulach, a local amateur player and volleyball fan started the conversation with the question: “Can I get some of Florida’s best players to play at my house?” Because the other side of the question, “Will people come and pay to watch these players?”, had an obvious answer: “Yes!” A couple people stepped up — Shontel Crawford, Eric Eckenroth and Jim Beaird — to help get the answer to Erik’s first question.
On Sunday, the G2 beach court in Central Florida will host a high-level Queen and King of the Court invitational. Some of the players you will know, some you will get to know.
The attendance for this will be limited and invite-only to be able to keep social distancing. You will be able to view all the matches on Facebook Live via the Florida Beach Volleyball Players group. Play is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Eastern.
The women’s side will feature two breakout players from the 2019 AVP season, Kimberly Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn. They had a second-place finish at the Austin AVP, and followed that up with a fifth place in Hermosa Beach. Also joining is Kaya Marciniak, a mainstay on the AVP Tour, with double-digit top 10 results in her career. Rounding out the foursome is Sarah Harper, who has put herself in a position to be a lock for the semis in any tournament in Florida and her versatility of playing with different partners should be an interesting factor.
The men’s side brings the same mix to the event.
This group starts off with one of the most exciting players on the AVP, Roberto “Rafu” Rodríguez-Bertrán. Rafu got his lone AVP title in 2018 and over the last three years has had four other semi-final appearances. Making it a family affair, Piotr Marciniak (Kaya’s husband) joins the men’s side, Piotr has been a constant in the Main Draw on the AVP over the last two years. Fun fact: Piotr knocked Rafu out of the NYC AVP event in their only meeting on the tour in 2019.
The third member of this group, who was also instrumental in pulling the event together, is Kibbee Jelks. Kibbee has been a top performer on the Florida beach scene for many years, as solid a player as they come. The final man is young up-and-comer Schylar Lillethorup. Schylar displayed his indoor volleyball skills at CSUN and, at 23, he’s now trying to transition out to the beach. Schylar was having a good start to 2020, getting his first open victory and a fifth in a packed East End event in Siesta Key.
Each player is guaranteed $250 for competing.