Beach players on what happens in Vegas

What happens in Vegas: Players discuss 4-star event in Sin City

Carolina Salgado-Maria Antonelli-p1440 Las Vegas

She couldn’t help it, Maria Antonelli. Couldn’t help but stop by, just for a listen. No more than 30 minutes. The Vegas siren song was too loud to completely ignore.

Never mind the fact that, prior to the first serve of p1440 Las Vegas, the Brazilian had taken a day to physically see every hotel, every casino, and get it out of her system. Never mind that she quite literally said “Bye to this hotel, bye to these shows,” Antonelli recalled. “I said ‘Ciao’ to them. ‘Bye. I’m here for beach volleyball’ and I needed to put that in my mind but it was difficult.”

So difficult that when her and her partner, Carolina Salgado, were returning to the MGM after a day of playing, she just couldn’t stop herself. She had – absolutely had – to listen to the performer playing.

“He was very, very good, so I said ‘Carolina go, I need to stay here for 30 minutes to listen to his songs,’” Antonelli recalled, laughing. “Now I can go to rest and think about volleyball. This is Vegas! I’m professional with my volleyball but I like to enjoy the life, too.”

And Vegas, for the first time in FIVB history, presented the opportunity to do an abundance of both. On the one hand, there was the four-star Olympic qualifier, a loaded 32-team draw featuring the best teams in the world, a replay of the World Tour Finals for the men – Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum vs. Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Michael Bryl – and a Sunday clash of Canada vs. Brazil.

But only eight teams make it to Sunday.

As for the rest? Well, Vegas was calling.

“The spinny wheel!” Tri Bourne said, laughing in reference to roulette, a favorite of the Americans. “Since we won our pool we gave ourselves a few minutes down in the casino, Trev a few more minutes but, to be honest, he’s not the best gambler.”

“I don’t know about that,” replied his partner, Trevor Crabb. “Only when I’m lose I’m not good.”

“I like him losing out there because then he’s hungrier out here,” Bourne said.

Perhaps that’s the trick to making a Sunday and nearly swiping a bronze medal from Russia, as Bourne and Crabb did in Vegas. Or perhaps it’s saying adios to the table games, giving Vegas a full day for a goodbye tour of debauchery and gambling. Whatever it takes to stay focused.

“It’s kind of crazy, the first day we arrived we said ‘C’mon, this is not a place to play beach volleyball!’” Salgado said. “But we are here. We are professionals and we are here to play. Of course, you gamble a little bit but that’s it.”

And you win a little bit, too, as the Brazilians did, returning home with a bronze medal in tow.

“I love it already,” Cherif Samba said. “I hope they’re going to make another tournament next year here.”