For the second straight summer, the Ontario Volleyball Association (OVA) beach tour has made a stop in Sudbury, and slowly, very slowly, the reach of the local tournament appears to be expanding.
Along with a strong contingent of local players, competitors from North Bay and Ottawa travelled to Moonlight Beach over the weekend for the two-day event as athletes prepare for the upcoming provincial championships at Ashbridges Bay in Toronto.
A local high school tandem crossed school boundaries to take home top spot in the girls U-18 division as Indigo Clement (Lockerby) and Hannah Grace (St. Charles) topped Kayla Kosturik and Lauren Kuehni of North Bay in the final.
"I think out of all the tournaments that we've been in, yesterday was the best as far as playing together as a team," Clement said on Sunday while taking in some of the action from other divisions. "We've been practicing more, so we were able to apply the skills we've been learning."
Yet another of those who enjoy the frequent touches on the ball that a two-player sport can provide, Clement is approaching the all-Ontario tournament with realistic expectations.
"We're playing a division up at provincials, in U-18, so we're hoping to finish somewhere in championship play (vs top level of premier)," added the Vikings senior.
After finishing second on Saturday in their natural U-15 grouping, the Sudbury duo of Brittany Reinhardt and Stacey Gregorini did one better on Sunday, defeating Hanna Bird and Kayla Wandziak in the U-16 gold medal game.
The Reinhardt/Gregorini team was knocked off by the Ottawa pairing of Pascale Saint-Denis and Brenna Czajkowski on day one, while siblings Hayden and Tayte Kosmerly captured the boys U18 pool, relegating Phil Villeneuve and Alex Bernardi to second place.
Villeneuve and Bernardi are competing together at provincials Aug. 4 and 5 before getting back together at the Ontario Summer Games later in the month as part of the Region 2 boys beach volleyball team.
In the last match of the weekend, Gabrielle Huneault and Justine Tubin got the better of Taylor Wilkinson and Nora Soenens in an all-Sudbury U-14 girls final.
The bulk of the local competitors train weekly as part of the Sudbury Staxx Beach Volleyball club under the watchful eye of coaches Kathy and Tom Sutton. The young athletes also enjoyed a special treat on Sunday as Lively native Vanessa Chorkawy, recently returned from the Canadian Women's National Volleyball team training camp in Winnipeg, took time to visit the beach courts.
After missing several months of play with a serious shoulder injury, Chorkawy indicated she was at about 80 per cent for much of the camp, with members of both Canada's A and B teams on hand for the rigorous workouts.
"It was a hard eight weeks, the hardest I've ever practiced, but it was fun," Chorkawy said.
The 23-year-old graduate of Lo-Ellen Park Secondary has decided to return to Lakehead University in the fall, with two years of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) eligibility still remaining.
"The camp in Winnipeg was really just getting the touches back," she said. "Now, it's a matter of getting in the gym and getting stronger."
With several team members entering their fourth or fifth years, Chorkawy said she believes the Thunderwolves will finally be in a position to contend, with her contribution among the keys to success.
"I want to go after the scoring title again, but also to minimize errors, to be a more effective player in terms of hitting percentage," Chorkawy explained. "Essentially taking the experience from the summer, learning when to bang the ball and when to make the better shots — becoming a smarter athlete."
Chorkawy expects to hook up with the national training centre in Winnipeg in March of 2013, once her university season is complete.
Posted by Laurel Myers