Smash comes up aces

By on August 10, 2016

 

In the shadow of a 15-foot inflatable Spalding King of the Beach ball, Pat Cronshaw spikes the ball over the net as his partner Eric McGuiney looks on during the 8th annual Susquehanna Smash volleyball tournament last weekend. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

In the shadow of a 15-foot inflatable Spalding King of the Beach ball, Pat Cronshaw spikes the ball over the net as his partner Eric McGuiney looks on during the 8th annual Susquehanna Smash volleyball tournament last weekend. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

In grass volleyball tournaments on the east coast, the Pottstown Rumble sets the bar.

Let’s face it, with 1,600 teams and 330 nets in play, that’s pretty tough to beat.

But the Susquehanna Smash is gaining ground.

At the 8th annual edition of the event last Friday and Saturday at PA Classics Soccer Park, there were 831 teams swinging away at bragging rights.

That marked a growth of roughly 80 teams from the previous year.

“It was a good tournament,” said Warwick girls coach Brad Glouner, who co-directs the Smash with Manheim Central boys skipper Craig Dietrich. “(The Pottstown Rumble) is nearly double the size we are. Now, they’ve been doing it 25 years and this was our 8th annual … But overall, the tournament went really well. We had some really big-time pros there.”

Pro beach players Hudson Bates and Shane Donohue, who compete on the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) Tour, were among the 2,000 or so athletes at the tournament.

“Hudson actually got a fifth place last year at an AVP event, so he’s pretty good,” Glouner said. “He came to the Smash a few years ago and won (the Men’s Pro Division) with a different partner.”

That was just part of the story. Two-time reigning Men’s Pro Division champs Chris Vaughan and Eric Zaun, of New Jersey, suffered an upset loss in the semi-finals to a team which included former Manheim Township girls assistant Ryan Genova, who is currently an assistant at Arcadia University.

“We had some good teams,” Glouner remarked.

Given the consistent prosperity of the Smash, it’s evident that the tournament has a solid reputation in the volleyball community. Players traveled from as far away as Indiana, South Carolina, Connecticut and Massachusetts in this year’s event.

“It’s not just the Mid-Atlantic,” Glouner remarked. “That’s a big section of it, obviously, but we get players (from a wide area).”

As Glouner noted, many of the compliments he and Dietrich receive are based on the quality playing surface at the PA Classics Park. He said that when they arrived at the facility at 9 a.m. on Monday for clean-up, workers were already there watering and manicuring the grounds.

“They keep it pristine and players love how nice the grass is,” Glouner said. “The one thing we get compliments about more than anything is that our grass fields are the nicest they’ve ever played on.”

This was the second year that the Susquehanna Smash used the PA Classics Park, which provides them with more space and parking capabilities. Exactly 100 nets were used on Saturday.

“Much more space,” Glouner remarked. “There’s four more fields that we didn’t even use and we had 106 nets set up.”

Another bonus from this year’s tournament was that players used Spalding King of the Beach balls. A 15-foot inflatable Spalding ball welcomed players in the center of the park.

“That’s pretty much the pre-dominant ball on the grass &tstr; not all over the country, but at least on the east coast,” Glouner said. “The Spalding rep was there and he had never been to our tournament. He was completely impressed and wants to do more stuff with us next year and maybe have us do a series with some of the other big tournaments all around the country. So we’d be part of that whole big thing.”

Once again this year, the finals matches were held on a center court, and players vied against each other in a serving contest, with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society.

“On Sunday alone, it was just over $500 from just that one serving contest,” Glouner said.

Six food vendors were on hand with food and drinks available, and many donated items for prizes in the serving contests.

“We have all kinds of things out there for (the athletes) to hit and win prizes,” Glouner said.

Even with a significant bump in growth for the Smash, Glouner said that a group of about 15 or 20 volunteers helped things operate smoothly.

“We always get people who are commenting about how well the tournament is run,” he remarked, “and how much fun they have in our tournament. We have a great volunteer staff that helps and is friendly and we have a lot of people that say they love playing in our tournament every year and really look forward to our event.”

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