USAV Collegiate Beach Championships

USAV Collegiate Beach Championships Give College Men Opportunity to Compete on Beach

HERMOSA BEACH — You could describe it as a state of disbelief, if Bryce Estes hadn’t seen it with his own eyes just before. If he hadn’t just heard Taylor Crabb talking shop with Jake Gibb at Brother’s Burritos. If he hadn’t seen Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger grabbing a poke bowl. If he hadn’t just walked past Billy Allen and Stafford Slick.

“You gotta realize,” Estes said, laughing at the wonderfulness of it all, “we don’t get this in Louisiana.”

Estes likened seeing Crabb and Gibb and Slick and Allen and others of that ilk akin to seeing members of the New Orleans Saints, strolling around the French Quarter.

“It’s like hold up, time right out, this is normal?” said Estes, a fifth year senior at Nicholls State, in Thibodaux, Louisiana. “This is basically the equivalent of seeing the New Orleans Saints skills players in New Orleans. Like ‘Hey Michael Thomas, how you doin? Oh, Ted Ginn, nice seeing you. Oh, hey Marshawn, nice seeing you, hope your off-season’s been great.’ I don’t understand how it’s so laid back out here. It’s great. I love it.”

This weekend is a unique experience to Estes, yes, but it is equally unique to every other male player in the USAV Collegiate Beach Championships. While others in the field have been to California prior – Estes has not – most have not had the opportunity to compete in collegiate beach volleyball. Lest something change with Title IX, beach is likely to stay exclusively a women’s sport, making the USAV Championships one of, if not the only, opportunity for men to compete on the beach for their respective colleges.

“The teams are kinda bigger and better,” Jon Justice, Estes’ partner, said. “There’s 16 teams and probably more depth within that. The bottom teams are better than they were last year and so are the top teams.”

Justice, perhaps more than any individual in the field, understands the immense benefits of the college game. He’s a volunteer assistant for Florida State, able to train with Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, observe the coaching prowess of Brooke Niles and Jason Lochhead. He’s also the defending champ, though his partner, Adam Wienckowski, is on the other side of the bracket, alongside lefty Tim Brewster, who recently returned from a NORCECA in Nicaragua. He knows not only the value of the reps college students get, but the opportunity to compete in California, to compete in high-stakes tournaments without the need to qualify on the AVP or FIVB tours.

“Super awesome,” said Evan Cory, a junior opposite hitter at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. “Just having an opportunity to represent your university and potentially represent your country on the college training team is awesome.”

There is one more day to do so, both for the women and the men. It was Estes and Justice who prevailed in a quarterfinal over Cory and Jacob Titus. They’ll meet Lewis’ Jason Gibbs and Carlos Jimenez in Saturday’s semifinals. On the other side of the bracket is Justice’s former partner, Wienckowski and Timmy Brewster, who will play Concordia’s Zach Meyer and Jordan Hoppe.

On the women’s side, Pepperdine’s Deahna Kraft and Brook Bauer will play LMU’s Emma Doud and Savannah Slattery. On the bottom side of the bracket, defending champs Kristen Nuss and Claire Coppola of LSU will play Florida State’s Alaina Chacon and Madison Fitzpatrick.