HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Legendary beach player Misty May-Treanor was inducted into the AVPFirst Wall of champions and AVP players participated in a fashion show Sunday as the volleyball community came together to support the AVPFirst, the youth volleyball initiative of the AVP pro beach volleyball tour.

The fifth-annual Serving Up Style included 118 guests and raised $43,500 through both corporate sponsorship and a silent auction.

The pro beach volleyball players walking the “runway” at the Paséa Hotel and Spa included Ed Ratledge, Kelly Claes, Eric Zaun, Jeff Samuels, Troy Field, Katie Spieler, Brittany Howard, Kelly Reeves, Nicolette Martin, Jessica Sykora, and Corinne Quiggle.

Also on hand was AVP CEO Donald Sun and beach legend Sinjin Smith, among others.

“We’re really excited,” AVPFirst executive director Tony Giarla said. “It’s our annual key fundraiser, it drives the programs that we’re doing, it’s a chance to bring awareness to the program, engage the pro athletes, and an opportunity for them to give back to benefit the program.

“We have a lot of local business owners, volleyball lovers, fans, and obviously Misty as an honoree is a pretty special thing for us.”

Misty May-Treanor-Tony Giarla
Misty May-Treanor is inducted into the AVPFirst Wall of Fame by executive director Tony Giarla/Ed Chan,

The AVPFirst is an ambitious effort that not only serves to aggregate young beach players from all over the country, but also to create brand new beach volleyball opportunities in areas that are typically underserved, Giarla said.

“We do a whole series of events that feed into our national tournament and our July championship in Hermosa Beach. More importantly, for me anyway, is the work that we’re doing in the community. We feel that it’s our job to create access for kids that normally wouldn’t have access to beach volleyball.

“Our job is to grow the sport. Our job is to find safe places for kids to play, partnering with parks and rec departments, partnering with housing developments, and school districts to create places, even if it’s grass. Two-on-two volleyball starts the process so that it becomes more of a mainstream sport.”

He said that they’re working to get an AVPFirst-branded, four-court facility in Santa Ana.

May-Treanor, the three-time Olympic gold medalist, was the keynote speaker. She was joined by husband Matt, their daughter, her father Butch, former Long Beach state coach Debbie Green, and a number of her current and former players where she coaches at Long Beach City College.

I’m honored to be recognized for AVPFirst,” May-Treanor said. “And I think it’s a great organization to help with and be a part of because they are looking out for the growth of the sport.”

The evening culminated in the Serving Up Style fashion show, with AVP player/models walking the runway and stepping out of their comfort zone. In particular, it is out of Eric Zaun’s comfort zone as he is known for choosing not to smile in photos.

“I’ve always believed that smiling is a sign of weakness,” said Zaun, modeling for the first time. “It’s good to be different. Everybody smiles in pictures, you throw a little attitude in and don’t smile in pictures, I’ve been doing that for a while now. It’s kind of a joke, little girls have to take pictures with me, and I tell them, ‘Hey, smiling is a sign of weakness,’ and it’s fun when you have cute little girls not smiling. That’s my thing.

“It’s really hard not to smile here,” Zaun admitted. “I’m a little out of the comfort zone, not used to runway modeling, so it’s very different, and it’s tough not to smile because there are a lot of good people here, and you hear good screams from the crowd, and you see your friends, and it’s tough to take too seriously.”

This was Katie Spieler’s second event and that experience showed as she owned plenty of ferocity in her 5-foot-5 frame while walking the runway. 

“I don’t have much practice modeling,” Spieler said, “but it’s super fun because the energy is really high, the athletes are just here to enjoy it, and we love the AVP and AVPFirst. So it’s fun to be here and help them out.   

“I walked last year, but this year I made a bet with my sister, and I lost it today. She said that I had to do poses at the end, like make a heart, and point to someone. I lost the bet, but I owned the fierceness.”

Below is Rob Espero’s video, and below that, an Ed Chan photo gallery from Sunday’s festivities.

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