West Michigan Beach Volleyball took over Grand Haven State Park on Saturday and Sunday, putting the local zeal for the sandy game on display with a record turnout.
Organizers and WMVB founders Pete Goers and Stevo Vanderwerp were thrilled with the turnout for their first of three tournaments this summer. Saturday’s tier competitions from juniors through adult attracted 110 teams of two to duke it out under the sun.
Sunday’s coed and quads action attracted another 30 teams, pushing participation numbers to record highs for the tournament.
“We don’t have to sell people around here on volleyball,” Goers said. “We might be biased, but Grand Haven is one of the coolest places we played, and we played in a lot of places.”
“The volleyball community super tight-knit, so it’s been easy to build that foundation,” Vanderwerp added. “The local support is great. The foundation of people who love the game and want to see it grow keeps us going.”
Among those were former high school standouts, current game builders — with a heavy presence for the newly formed Grand Haven boys volleyball team — area coaches and aspiring collegiate or professional players, and that was just the locals.
This year’s record turnout was reflected in the amount of out-of-town teams making a point to register early and make the trek to Grand Haven’s picturesque Lakeshore.
“We get support locally, for sure,” Goers said. “But, what we are seeing in registration isn’t necessarily local. Grand Haven is a destination anyway, and we’re seeing people from all over.”
“We have four or five teams from Traverse City and even a few from Chicago,” Vanderwerp added. “Okemos, Indiana, Ohio. People are starting to hear about what we do here and are saying, ‘We have to get there’”
As the tournament grows, Vanderwerp and Goes have welcomed every challenge, pushing their club forward with the sole intent of expanding the game.
“The end goal of WMVB is just to give opportunities for people to play,” Vanderwerp said. “When we were playing, people would give you a weird look if you said you were from Michigan on the volleyball circuit. We didn’t have these opportunities to get out and learn the game until after we graduated.
“The boys team getting started at Grand Haven is amazing. Our B mens division was full of high school boys, not necessarily from Grand Haven.”
“Our goal for the tournament is to really become a premier event,” Goers said. “We started to see it this year, but we want people to be ready for registration, signing up early so they get a spot. It’s starting to be a thing you register for two months early and make the trip, instead of checking the weather two days before and coming down.”
Despite the popularity of the growing tournament, WMVB remains focused on their ground-up approach focusing this summer of building their youth clinics and scholarship contest.
“Grand Haven is our bread and butter,” Vanderwerp said. “We love to see it continue to grow, but we are starting to try and give back in whatever avenue we can with the scholarships and youth clinics.”
Two more tournaments are on the schedule at the state park, July 13-14 and August 10-11. The youth clinics filled up almost immediately, with 180 kids signed up across three dates.
Throughout all the sand-bound action, Goers and Vanderwerp will be reviewing applications for the WMVB scholarship, which will award four 2019 graduates $500 to help continue their education.
The scholarship is not limited to aspiring AVP pros, or varsity volleyball players. Participation in just one WMVB event this summer is enough to apply. Visit www.wmbeachvolleyball.com/scholarship for more information.
Check out the winners from this weekends’ tournament.
Coed 4’s division- 3 Nugs, 1 Blocker; women’s AA- Howard and Reichel; mens AA- VanRees and Drake; mens A- Moore and Moore; womens A- Ronda and Bulthuis; mens B- Hartney and Jonker; womens B- Platt and Conaty; junior 18’s- Dykstra and Stareburner; junior 16’s- Norris and Hyllant; junior 14’s Shaft and Burns; junior 12’s- Armstrong and Armstrong.