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USA Volleyball Open National Championships come to Phoenix

The Phoenix Convention Center plays host to over 500 volleyball teams this week.
The Phoenix Convention Center plays host to over 500 volleyball teams this week.
Scott Mammoser

For the past week, the Phoenix Convention Center has been transformed into a panorama of four dozen volleyball courts, playing host to the USA Volleyball Open National Championships.

The 85-year-old event, which boasts 526 teams and over 6,000 athletes, began Friday and concludes Wednesday with finals in the Premier Volleyball League divisions.

All of the competitors are over 18, and the most senior go into their 80s. After the age of 40, the men are divided into groups over 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 73, 76, and 79, while the women have the same five-year divisions ending at 65 and over. Club divisions, such as the Arizona Sizzle, are divided into four categories, AA, A, BB, and B.

“I think the event was a great success,” said Irina Damy, in her sixth year as the event manager for USA Volleyball. “It went really smoothly, all of the teams had a great time. It’s a great competition level, having national team members in Phoenix was a great addition to the event. Last year (in Louisville, Ky.), we didn’t have the men’s PVL division, we had a few national team members participate in the open division, but this event just keeps growing and growing.”

Lloy Ball and Scott Touzinsky, who were on the U.S. men’s team that won the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are both in Phoenix participating, as well as three-time Paralympian Lora Webster.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Delvin Maston, 35, began playing sitting volleyball three years ago and hopes to make the Paralympic team. The 15-year Army veteran said he deployed four times and became a right-above-the-knee amputee in June 2009.

“It’s great,” said Maston, who will be retiring from the Army soon. “You get an opportunity to see how different types of volleyball are played and how you can translate the standing game to the sitting game because I didn’t participate in volleyball until I got injured, so it really helps me to watch the mechanics. I like being able to come out and play with the guys, and people get an opportunity to see us play and get amazed, so that helps out too by people recognizing, it’s a great platform for our sport.”

Maston, who played basketball at Miles College in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., also plays wheelchair basketball and softball, but said he never touched a volleyball until 2011.

Not limited to Americans, there are also 32 teams from Brazil, 19 from Venezuela, 17 Canadian, and two Mexican competing.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Carlos Reyes, who came from Caracas, Venezuela. “The event allows me to meet people and observe other players, it’s great.”

There were 37 teams from Arizona, and former Arizona State University standout Erica Wilson competed for the Arizona Sizzle. Wilson, who turned 23 Monday, said she recently signed a contract to play professionally in Berlin, Germany, beginning in August.

Next year’s USAV Open is slated for Memorial Day weekend in Detroit.