2012-06-28 / Sports
Belmar Open brought out best in volleyball players and fans
“This (Belmar) is it for us,” said Donohue, a Freehold Township High School and Ramapo College graduate. “Manhattan Beach (California) may be the biggest event, but this is it for me. I love Belmar.”
The Belmar Open is part of the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series. The event was held June 22-24 on the Fifth Avenue beach in Belmar and it gave Donohue and his teammate, Kris Fraser, a home-court edge. Both players live in Belmar.
“I get to sleep at home, walk to the tournament and have my family and friends watching me,” Donohue said. “There’s nothing like having the home field.”
Over the years, Belmar has been a popular stop on the professional volleyball circuit and it is because of the fans, according to Donohue .“ For the fans of New Jersey, it’s the only tournament you can come to,” he said. “Everyone has a good time and they bring a lot of energy.”
Donohue and Fraser, who is from Lakewood and also played volleyball at Ramapo, were seeded No. 20 in the 41-team field and finished in a tie for 17th place. Donohue said he and Fraser were hoping for a top 10 finish in Belmar. They achieved their first goal of winning their first match, which helped them finish in the upper half of the standings. They earned 100 points on the tour.
Also finishing in a tie for 17th place was the team of Tim Kohler (another Ramapo graduate who is from East Brunswick) and Todd Strassberger. They were seeded No. 22.
One New Jersey native was able to win the “home tournament” and that was Toms River’s Ryan Doherty.
Doherty, who stands 7-1, played professional baseball as a pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization before turning to the beach. He teamed up with Casey Patterson (Huntington Beach, Calif.) to defeat the team of Adrian Carambula (Miami Beach, Fla.) and Steven Grotowski (Boynton Beach, Calif.), 21-14, 23-21. It was the first tournament win for the Doherty- Patterson team. They were seeded No. 13.
“To play in front of my home crowd and friends and family meant everything to me,” Doherty said following his win. “None of them have seen me play at the pro level, and to win my first event in the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series and to win it at home, it shows us that we can do a lot. I am excited for what we have done, we still have a lot to improve on and I am ready to get back to work.”
On the women’s side, Jenny Kropp (Holly Glen, Calif.) and Whitney Pavlik (Laguna Beach, Calif.), the top seeds, made it two straight series wins by defeating the team of Raquel Ferreira (Brazil) and Kristen Batt (Venice, Fla.) in a three-set thriller, rallying from a set down to win, 20-22, 21-12, 15- 9.
“We are grateful to play in the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series. They have provided us a tour with great atmosphere, huge turnouts and stability for our sport,” Kropp said.
Kropp praised the energy the fans provided and the packed stadium that greeted the players for the final.
The men and women were competing for $100,000 in prize money (each winning team earned $10,000).
The Belmar Open will be televised on July 1 on the NBC Sports Network.
The next stop on the Jose Cuervo tour will be Chicago for the Chicago Open, July 13-15. The series has seven events this year and Belmar was the second stop. The opening event was the Florida Open in Fort Lauderdale over the Memorial Day weekend.