Scott Stonebraker sat next to his wife Andrea on the flight back to their home state of Pennsylvania after playing in the MotherLode Volleyball Classic in Aspen, Colorado. As they cruised along 30,000 feet above the brown and green patchwork quilt of the American Midwest, he mused, How fun would it be to play in every state?
Thus began the Stonebrakers quest to play in all 50 states. The mission began modestly, driving to tournaments in neighboring states from their home near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As their adventure progressed, they began to encounter some unexpected challenges. For example, in Maine, the tournament was cancelled, but a few volleyfriends put together a King of the Beach style tournament so the Stonebrakers could still cross Maine off their list. It was only event where the Stonebrakers did not play together. (They also returned to Maine four years later to play in an official tournament.)
In West Virginia, the tournament organizers canceled the amateur division, forcing the Stonebrakers to compete in the men’s pro division. Needless to say, it was not their best finish.
The Stonebrakers found themselves battling the odds in Baker, Montana. They signed up for a 6v6 tournament, but ultimately decided to compete two-on-six because they were afraid of getting injured teaming up with some of the local players. They ended up facing a squad of local guys in the final and eked out the win 15-13, 13-15, 15-9.
In Papillion, Nebraska, the couple played in their first mud volleyball tournamenta benefit for cerebral palsy. The format was 6v6, with mud up to their knees.
The Stonebrakers completed their quest in six and a half years, finally bagging their last state this March, at the Dinosaur tournament in Kauai, Hawaii. They finished 1-2 in the double-elimination event, completing a task that may be unrivaled in our sport. If youre curious about any of the events they played, they documented their adventures at volleyballacrossamerica.net.
At some point, the Stonebrakers plan to calculate the number of miles that they drove to complete their quest. Their longest drive was a 13 hour, 830-mile drive to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the Waupaca Boatride. The longest flight, 4,825 miles to Kauai for the Dinosaur.
As you can imagine, the Stonebrakers have seen quite a variety of volleyball tournaments. Theyve played indoor, grass, sand, and mud events, although they prefer grass when given the choice. The largest tournament theyve played? The MotherLode was the largest in terms of numbers of teams, while the Waupaca Boatride was the largest in terms of numbers of participants. The smallest tournament is an indoor tournament at Alameda High School, in Alameda, California, with four six-person teams participating.
Since most of us havent played in all 50 states, the Stonebrakers are frequently asked what their favorite volleyball tournaments are. Here’s their top five:
1. The Pottstown Rumble, Pottstown, Pennsylvania
2. Seaside Beach Volleyball, Seaside, Oregon
3. The MotherLode Classic, Aspen, Colorado
4. The Susquehanna Smash, Mannheim, Pennsylvania
5. The Waupaca Boatride, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
What’s next for the Stonebrakers now that they completed their quest to play in all 50 states? They say theyre too exhausted from the travelling to start on an international checklist, but they will admit to having an eye on the Mizuno Beach Volleyball Marathon in Bibione, Italy.