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Susquehanna Smash serves up a winner
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Between Saturday and Sunday, Craig Dietrich and Brad Glouner probably spent over 32 hours at the Warwick Linear Park.
That doesn’t include the time on Friday that they helped to set up for this year’s 5th annual Susquehanna Smash grass volleyball tourney.
But as co-directors of the popular event, it is a labor of love.
"Brad and I are both very passionate about volleyball and providing a top notch event to go along with it," Dietrich said. "It’s kinda one of those things you look back on and say, ‘Yeah, it was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun too.’ The relationships you get to develop and the people that you meet, it makes it worthwhile when they tell you how awesome an event it was and how positive it was."
This year’s event certainly was that. In 2012, more than 500 teams swooped in on the Linear Park for the two-day event. That number increased to 613 teams last weekend, including 340 for Saturday’s action. Linear Park was transformed into volleyball heaven for fans of the sport, with 72 nets in play on Saturday and 68 on Sunday.
"It was a ton of volleyball," Dietrich said. "It was quite a stretching of the park this year. We knew we could fit in no more than 365 teams on Saturday, so we were pretty darn close to that. At any given time on Saturday or Sunday, we could have had at least 1,500 people in the park each day."
According to Dietrich, though, the success of their tournament is measured by more than the number of teams participating. The goal is to provide the best experience possible for every player, and based on the continued growth of the event, organizers are indeed doing something right.
"We’re just trying to put on the best event possible," Dietrich said. "And if it means taking 10 less teams to create more space for a couple divisions, we’ll take less teams because we want to put out a great event. That’s the thing we’re looking to do – enhance Lititz and enhance Lancaster County."
As the Susquehanna Smash co-directors were quick to point out, they got a lot of help from others, including Curtis Strasheim, director of the Warwick Regional Recreation Commission, along with Dan Zimmerman and the Warwick Township supervisors.
"They’ve been very, very great to work with in bringing this to Warwick Township and Lititz Borough," Dietrich remarked. "The residents were very receptive of the event. We had a lot of residents from around the park there that just kinda checked things out and complimented us on it."
An army of faithful volunteers also paved the way for a smooth tournament this year. In Dietrich’s role as the Manheim Central head boys volleyball coach and Glouner’s position as the Warwick JV boys volleyball coach, they have made a lot of friends who were gracious with their time in helping to get things prepared.
"I slept a little bit easier this year because we had a lot of good, dedicated volunteers," Dietrich said. "I think the first year we started setting up at 7 in the morning (on Friday) and finished at like 7 or 8 o’clock at night. This year we finished about 2 or 2:30. So we set up 76 volleyball nets, we put up fencing in between all these courts, so it’s quite an undertaking. To have that all taken care of in half the time that it’s been done in the past, it does ease your mind a little bit. We had a lot of dedicated volunteers. Friday I slept decent. Saturday I slept a little less. And then Sunday evening, I think I got home and fell over."
Many people probably got back to their hotel rooms on Saturday night and fell over. That, too, is one of the goals of the Susquehanna Smash, to give the local economy a boost.
"We’re putting people in hotels, things of that nature," Dietrich said. "When you look at the small picture and say, ‘Wow, there’s a really big volleyball tournament here,’ but (in the big picture), the businesses and the communities of Lititz and Lancaster County are benefiting from this volleyball tournament."
Indeed, many of those who visited Lititz last weekend were out-of-state, including Hudson Bates and Mark Burik, of Virginia, who defeated the Reading tandem of Mike Kunkel and Tim Stein to claim the men’s pro championship and win the $2,000 first-place prize. Kunkel and Stein took home $1,000 for finishing runner-up. Overall, more than $25,000 was paid out in cash and prize value among all the divisions during the weekend.
"There were just a lot of great things that happened. I thought the competition in all the divisions was pretty strong," Dietrich said.
Spooky Nook Sports, where Glouner works as the director of volleyball operations, was the title sponsor of the Susquehanna Smash this year.
As in years past, the American Cancer Society will receive a portion of the proceeds, with money being donated from people who took advantage of a photo booth. Funds were also raised from the traditional serving contest, held both Saturday and Sunday.
"That’s usually very well received," Dietrich said.
Another thing that was very well received was Sunday’s beautiful weather, especially after a rainy conclusion to the Susquehanna Smash last year.
"Sunday was just an absolute beautiful day," Dietrich said. "We had 80 degrees and clear skies. It was just a great day to play and/or come watch. We couldn’t have asked for better weather on Sunday. Saturday was overcast in the morning and then the sun made an appearance in the afternoon. We didn’t have any weather issues per se, so that was definitely a bonus."
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