April 22, 2018
By Emmett Hall
Tyler Lesneski, of Deerfield Beach, dives and makes a successful dig as teammate Piotr Marciniak (Boca Raton) gets ready to keep the ball in play during the Men’s Open semifinals of the Dig the Beach event in Pompano. The duo finished in a tie for third place. (emmett hall/correspondent)
Pompano Beach was a beautiful sight for beach volleyball players as the oceanfront was transformed into a playground with 30 courts for the first stop on the Dig the Beach Summer Series tour. The weekend event attracted over 200 teams of professional, amateur, coed and junior players.
Dig the Beach has been running beach volleyball tournaments in Florida since 1991, and a new generation of players is joining the movement as demand for the sport continues to grow.
The Women’s Open finals featured Deerfield Beach resident Megan Rice teaming up with Christina Alessi-Matthews, of West Palm Beach, to take the top prize. The duo defeated the No. 1-seeded team of Bree Scarbrough and Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima, 21-18, 21-18.
Rice is no stranger to the winners’ circle, having won 10 championships on the tour. The University of Florida graduate also played for the Florida Atlantic University Owls sand volleyball team. She has been playing on the Dig the Beach tour for five years.
“Christina (Alessi-Matthews) and I have been playing together for a few months so we are relatively new partners, but she is just awesome,” Rice said. “Dig the Beach always puts on a great event and I can’t say enough good things about (the organization). I come into every tournament just to have fun and enjoy a nice day at the beach, but I always want to place at least top three.”
In the Men’s Open competition, the Serbian team of Djordje Klansic and Lazar Kolaric defeated the Brazilian pair of Gabriel Gouveia and Igor Borges. Tyler Leneski (Deerfield Beach) and Piotr Marciniak (Boca Raton) shared a third-place finish with Brad Connors and Peter Connole.
A big drawing card for the top professional and amateur players is the new partnership between Dig the Beach and AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) NEXT. AVP NEXT is an official developmental program for players to earn qualification points that will go toward national rankings and entry into AVP main draws.
Dig the Beach tournament director Diogo Sousa is excited about the new arrangement with the AVP tour.
“What this partnership entails is it gives Florida players better opportunities to get AVP points that will help them when they go to AVP qualifiers,” Sousa said. “More and more people are now becoming AVP members when they discover they can earn points locally.”
The players are all on board with the new arrangement.
“Having AVP Next on our home beaches is great and I love it,” Rice said. “We don’t have to drive 10 hours to go to a site to compete for AVP points now.”
Refurbishing and beach development projects with new restaurants has made Pompano Beach a hot spot for the athletes.
“The City of Pompano Beach has been great to us and we look forward to putting on many more events in the coming years,” Sousa said. “Attendance for our first summer series was fantastic. We have international teams competing with players throughout Florida.”