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TERRY JONES: Qualifiers determine spots in main draw at beach volleyball tourney

Members of Team Japan (left) and Team Canada practice in the pouring rain during the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, in Edmonton Wednesday July 17, 2019.
Members of Team Japan (left) and Team Canada practice in the pouring rain during the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, in Edmonton Wednesday July 17, 2019.

To most who don’t follow the beach volleyball scene, which will be most everybody at K-Days this week, the guys and gals wearing the bathing suits on the beaches they created at the Northlands Park racetrack this week will be largely unrecognizable.

And in the case of Wednesday’s qualification round that opened the only FIVB Beach Volleyball world Tour event in Canada or the USA this year, that was especially true with the first two teams to qualify.

They were Jagoda Gruszczynska and partner Aleksandra Wachowicz and Monika Brzostek and teammate Aleksandra Gromadowska.

Both are from Poland.

And they both beat Canadians.

But you should know that one Canadian team, that of William Hoey and Jake MacNeil advanced to the main draw with a 2-0 win over Poland’s Jakub Szalankiewicz and Milosz Kruk in their second round qualification match to advance.

There’s a bit of an education process involved here with the tour stop organizers hope to make am annual event.

Wednesday was qualifying competition day to determine eight teams of each gender to advance to the money rounds involving 32 teams in both men’s and women’s.

Not especially exciting stuff to cover perhaps, but it was definitely easy on the eyes for those who decided to check it out and the reviews were excellent.

“The ambiance was great. The weather was awesome. And it sure looks like the venue is going to be great as the spectators start coming,” said Ed Drakich, the beach high performance director for Volleyball Canada.

With a few hundred fans wandering in and out during the qualifying Wednesday, the numbers were roughly what were expected. But it’s when the gates open to K-Days Friday and event admission is included in the admission price to the grounds that everybody is waiting to see.

“For a first day, it went, really, really well,” said Drakich.

“The presentation with the music and the atmosphere was good. The athletes are happy with the sand. They say the sand is good quality.

“And they really like the venue. It’s unique.

“The players area is back among the horse stables and they love the race track theme with the hay bales around the courts. It’s something new that they haven’t seen before.

“One of the Japanese players was asking ‘Is that was real hay that the horses eat?’

“The players are really happy.”

Thursday’s start of competition in the US $150,000 event will feature two rounds of men’s and one round of women’s modified pool play. The second round of women’s pool play is set for Friday morning.

Wednesday’s single elimination qualification competition day determined eight teams of each gender advancing to the money rounds involving 32 teams in each men’s and women’s flights.

Thursday’s main draw rounds for each gender will involve four teams in each pool. The winners in each of the eight pools per gender earn a bye going forward. Second and third place pool finisher compete in the first round of elimination. Fourth place teams in each group are sent home with a shared result of 25th place.

Exempt from the qualifying were the top 23 men’s teams and top 22 women’s teams based on FIVB technical points.

Three Canadian teams, the men’s combo of Sergiy Grabovsky and Cameron Wheelan and the women’s teams featuring Amanda Harnett and Marie-Christine Lapointe and Julie Gordon and Shanice Marcelle were rewarded with wild card spots.

Harnett and Lapointe will represent Canada in the 2019 Pan-Am Games in Lima, Peru.

Saturday involves single elimination games to get down to Sunday’s medal round.

Whatever, the show doesn’t really start until the weekend.

“There’s a reason beach volleyball is usually the most popular venue at the Olympic Games. There’s the music and the atmosphere and the sort of laid-back nature of the sport and the athleticism of these players.

“The main draw starts Thursday, so the big players are playing right?”

And who knows, Gruszczynska, Wachowicz, Brzostek and Gromadowska may survive to play another day.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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