The action heats up today on the sands south of the Manhattan Beach Pier as the 2011 Charlie Saikley 6-Man Volleyball Tournament pits the best of the best against each other to determine a champion.
Last year's winner, Team Magnum [now known as Team Smack] has made it past yesterday's pool play and will compete in a mix that includes Simmzy's/Beckers Bakery, which took third place last year, and dream team Trim Lords, which counts volleyball and basketball professionals among its ranks.
Current NBA stars and former UCLA stars Kevin Love and Jordan Farmar, along with Manhattan Beach resident and current Los Angeles Lakers player Luke Walton, teamed up with legendary beach volleyball players Mike Lambert and Matt Fuerbringer along with the voice of beach volleyball Chris (Geeter) McGee to win pool 7 and advance to today's competition.
“This sport is not as easy as it looks,” said Love, who is the nephew of Beach Boy and Hawthorne native Mike Love and who currently plays with the Minnesota Timberwolves but lives in Manhattan Beach.
“You don’t realize how tough this sport is until you're out their on the sand and the ball comes screaming at you. You have to have great timing, agility and athleticism to be good in this sport," said Love, who is playing in the 6-Man for the first time.
“These guys are some amazing athletes.”
Last year’s champion, Team Smack [Team Magnum in past years], which also won in 2008 and 2009, came in second in pool 8 to advance to today’s action. The team, comprised of professional beach and college indoor volleyball players including former Manhattan Beach Open winner Albert (Al-B) Hanneman and Brett Doble, will have its work cut out for it to achieve a four-peat.
“This is something that we all plan for months in advance every year,” said Hanneman. “It really is a great chance to play some good volleyball and have a ton of fun doing it. We take it serious but we also try to have a little more fun and just play loose.”
This year's tournament put fewer competitors on the sand. Four years ago, 380 teams entered and the consumption of alcohol on the beach was more common than a jump serve.
To ensure public safety, the Manhattan Beach City Council and city and tournament officials took steps to curb alcohol consumption. The city paid for its full police force to be on duty. Stricter rules were put in place on players and spectators. The competition area was fenced in with limited entry/exit points and private security was hired.
Teams fees were raised to offset the additional new costs, but failed to cover them in 2010, with the city picking up about a $54,000 tab.
This year's tournament is being presented in the same fashion as last year's.
However, with fewer teams competing [this year 120 have registered], there was more competition on Saturday than professional beach volleyball player Mike Lambert can remember.
“When there were many more teams a few years ago, the level of play was not as good,” said Lambert, a member of the Trim Lords (Team Fletch of years past). “Today there has been a ton of rallies, and games seemed to be going longer and were a little more intense. There was some really good volleyball being played out there today.”
“I have been coming to this tournament since I was a kid,” said basketball player Dijon Thompson, who won a CIF basketball title in 2001 with Redondo Union High School, played at UCLA and who currently plays professionally in France.
“If I’m anywhere near Los Angeles around the time of this tournament then I come down here to represent for the South Bay because I have so many fond memories of growing up in this area and I get to see so many of my old friends. It’s like a big reunion,” he said.
Other professional basketball stars lined the sides of the court to take in the action, including the 2011 first round pick of the L.A. Lakers Darius Morris, current San Antonio Spur Richard Jefferson and current Minnesota Timberwolve Lazar Haywood.
“This is an amazing event,” said former University of Michigan star Morris, who was at the event for the first time. “I definitely want to come again, and hopefully down the road I can get on my own team and compete down here with these guys."
“In my eyes, this tournament is what Manhattan Beach is all about,” Manhattan Beach City Council member Richard Montgomery said of the two-day event. “This is my 17th year attending and participating in this event. This tournament is quintessential Manhattan Beach and really highlights how unique and special our community is.”
The final games of the day on Saturday, in the open division [the tournament has five divisions], are always between the two highest seeds, an innovation created by tournament founder Charlie Saikley, for whom the tournament was named after he died.
Said his son JP Saikley, who is the tournament director, “My dad always knew who the best teams were because he knew all the players. He thought that the two best teams in each pool should play at the end of the day so that teams would know what kind of score they would need to advance to the next round."
Sunday’s open action began today at 9 a.m. Today's action moves from yesterday's pool play to first-round single elimination before switching to double elimination in the final rounds.
On Saturday, in the Men’s Masters over 50 division, the Arrogant Bastards defeated longtime rival and nemesis Team Rosecrans, 17-15, to win the title.
“We now have beaten each other twice,” said Andy Schroeder, who resides up in the Northern California city of Concord. “We both know we are the two best teams in the division and that we were going to have to face them in the finals.”
The Arrogant Bastards and Team Rosecrans have played in the finals the past three years, with Team Rosecrans winning the last two times before the Arrogant Bastards exacted a measure of revenge by winning Saturday.
The AB jumped out to an 8-0 and 11-2 lead before TR made a huge run, and was serving for gamepoint at 14-12 when AB scored the next five points to secure the victory.
“Although I don’t like to lose anytime in anything I do,” said Demi Smith, a member of the California Beach Volleyball Association Hall of Fame, “I don’t mind losing in this tournament because the idea is to have fun and that’s exactly what I have been doing at this tournament for the past 30 years.”
In the Women’s Master’s division on Saturday, the Desperate Housewives defeated Winston’s Women, 15-7, to win the championship for the first time.
“We have been second for like five years, so it’s good to finally break through,” said LeValley Pattison, the current El Camino College women’s volleyball coach and longtime Manhattan Beach resident.
“This is always a great tournament and we have been playing together in this tournament for a long time.”
Master’s players, many of whom have many fond memories of the tournament from year’s past, feel that this year's incarnation is far more player friendly than in previous years.
“It has been a much cleaner event with not as much debauchery as in the past,” Pattison said of the lack of alcohol at the tournament. “It’s a much more player friendly event with the focus on volleyball and not the wild parties that brought a majority of people to the event.”
Below is a list of the teams that have advanced to today's competition and the order they finished on Saturday. The list of pools coincided with the court number the team played on.
Men’s Open Division
1. Super Average
2. Plastic Chicken
2. Alex Maine
1. Wee Man’s Chronic Tacos
2. Team Channel 4 News
1. Young and Restless
2. Team WWF
1. Spyder /Res Ipsa
2. Brahma Sports
1. Trim Lords
2. Mullet Mustache
1. Stay Thirsty
2. Team Smack
1. Kinda Good
2. Grand Old Cougars
1. 12th Street
2. Breakin' Hooligans
1. Rage all Noche
2. Barefoot Wine
1. 33rd Street
2. Team Ditka
1. Team Smackeez
2. 12 Malibu Superhotties
Women’s Open Division
1. Team Mile High
1. Girls Gone Wild
2. Easy Riders
1. Team 900
1. Swedish Bikini Team
2. Gumtree Girls
1. Rockstar Girls
2. Yes we can/can