'It's way more fun than I thought'

Matt DeYoung • Jan 26, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Stefanie Herder and her friends saw the forecast for Friday night and debated on bailing on the inaugural Winterfest Freeze-4-All snow volleyball tournament. 

She said she’s glad they decided to play. 

“We thought it would be so cold down here, but I’m sweating,” Herder said moments after finishing the first game of the evening. “It’s not nearly as cold as I thought it would be.

“We saw the wind chills and thought it would be miserable, but as soon as we started moving, it was fine,” she added. “A lot of our friends we play with in the summertime are here, too. This is a great idea — a lot of fun. I’m glad they added it.”

“It’s way more fun than I thought it was going to be,” added teammate Brianna Brackett. “I’m glad we did this.”

See related photo gallery: “Winterfest Freeze-4-All snow volleyball”

For the past few years, Pete Goers and Stevo VanderWerp have wanted to add a snow volleyball tournament to Grand Haven’s annual Winterfest celebration. Their dream became a reality this year.

On Friday night, 16 teams braved the cold to compete in the first Freeze-4-All competition. 

“The snow volleyball as a part of Winterfest is something we’ve been talking about for a number of years,” VanderWerp said. “We’d always wait too long, and all of a sudden it would be November or December and it’s too late. That went on for 3-4 years. This year, we got our act together, contacted Kevin (Galbini) at Winterfest and asked, ‘Would there be a possibility?’”

VanderWerp said snow volleyball is not a new concept.

“I think it was part of Winterfest 20 years ago or more,” he said. “They used to run it on tennis courts at Charlie Marlins ... but it hasn’t been part of Winterfest for the last decade or more.”

The inaugural Freeze-4-All tournament featured two divisions — family friendly and competitive. Even the competitive players approach snow volleyball knowing that the primary goal is to have a good time. 

“Any time you’re playing outside, there are challenges,” VanderWerp said. “During the summer, you have the heat, the sun, the wind, the sand. In the winter, gloves can make things tricky. I think everyone understands the concept. Nobody here’s trying to qualify for the Olympics. They’re just looking to have a good time in the middle of winter. It’s a family-friendly thing. We’re just hoping people have fun, stay safe, and have something they can look forward to. We’re hoping this grows into an annual thing.”

Brackett was expecting snow volleyball to be a new challenge, and she was right.

“This is a step up (in difficulty) from the beach,” she said. “You have the unsteadiness, and also the ice chunks, the bulky clothing. I could barely swing my arm to serve. And the ball feels really heavy.”

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