The more than 100 players that competed in last Saturday’s Hope For Tomorrow Yutu Relief Fundraiser Beach Volleyball Tournament at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan proved that the sport is picking up its lost ground.
“As you know, we haven’t held a Marianas Cup Beach Volleyball Festival since 2015 and in 2015, we only did the Juniors and the Kids Cup,” Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association president Laurie Peterka said.
The Marianas Cup was the premier and signature volleyball tournament of NMIVA. Saipan hosted it for more than a decade before the island took turns with Guam in holding the event that featured professional players from around the world teaming up with local bets and a separate competition for those in the U18 age group.
Logistics challenges and economic constrains had the event scrapped and NMIVA was left with occasional tournaments since 2015.
“It’s been really, really challenging and honestly, I am have no real clue as to why I haven’t just given up. In August, we started a NMIVA working group and our goal was to regroup after the Yap Games (2018 Micronesian Games). We are trying to rebuild our capacity and a few people have expressed their interest. So, just before the storm, our working group was determined to try to rebuild our calendar and the goal being to have at least one event per quarter, but shoot for one per month, alternating beach, indoor, grass, and also with youth, young adults, and masters,” Peterka said.
“Sadly, many of our indoor volunteers were heavily affected by the storm, but they are still very interested. I think we actually had to stop in the middle because of the storm and resume the following weekend. So, now we have the Yutu recovery in front of us, it’s likely that both the remaining PSS and CCOPSA seasons will be affected. I, Mili (Saiki), and then Nick (Gross) decided that it was time to bring back a Kids Cup type of event with the goal of seeing what kind of response we would get in our preliminary estimate, we figured 150 players,” Peterka said.
One-hundred-four signed up for the U14 and U18 division games, while NMIVA’s junior group took the lead in running the competition, and the adults/masters players volunteered as umpires in the weekend event.
“I think 135 was our record for the Kids Cup and maybe that was 2012 or 2013. The turnout last Saturday was 104, so Mili and I thought, let’s see… and if this is good, maybe we could do another one in the first quarter of 2019. I would say that the interest is higher now than it was two years ago,” the NMIVA head said.
She added that they have been counting on the Public School System and the Commonwealth Coalition of Private Schools Association to boost the numbers of individuals getting involved in the sport. PSS concluded its high school girls indoor volleyball season a little over a week before Yutu hammered Saipan, while CCOPSA has yet to play the finale of the middle school division and will start the high school competition today.
Meanwhile, after the successful staging of the Yutu Relief tournament, NMIVA has lined up another competition next month.
“MCS Alumni reached out and asked if we could help them with an event for Jan. 5 We’ve discussed it and they have agreed to host the grass reverse co-ed event, which used to take place every January,” Peterka said.