June 07, 2006

Time To Hit The Beach!

The North Fork Beach Volleyball League was scheduled to begin its historic 12th season at Breakwater Beach in Mattituck this past Monday with no less than 15 teams battling to determine which one will walk off the sand as champions later this summer.

Scott Tyler's Automotive returns to defend both its regular season and North Fork Invitational Tournament Title with team captain and 2005 co-MVP Eric Schonefeld leading an impressive group that includes fellow co-MVP Chris DeNigris, along with Ray Preston, and defending back-to-back female MVP Tara Brown. Last season Brown played for third place finisher Country Time Cycle.

Team Legends, which finished in third place in the regular season before taking an impressive second place finish in the invitational tourney returns former MVPs Kathy Ryan, Eric Wahl and Mike Ryan while new addition Andy Greene should fit in nicely after playing with Penny Lumber in 2005.

Mike Ryan is a tireless worker who sacrifices his body to keep the ball in play and he's won more male MVP awards than anyone in the league. Kathy Ryan, another multiple MVP winner, continues to excel on the sand and her full-time presence in the lineup last season paid big dividends for team Legends as it buzzed the tournament trophy before settling for a runner-up finish. Wahl is another "Legend," a crafty player that brings strength, smarts and a winning attitude to a team that has seen its fair share of success over the years.

East End Sporting Goods, winners of the annual invitation tournament from 2002 through 2004, will be hard pressed to challenge for another title after loosing former MVP Sean Symanski to Native Eyewear although Tom Allotta, Steve Kiefer and Joan Alotta will certainly give their best effort this summer.

Mattituck Plumbing, which finished in sixth place in 2005, is an intriguing team with plenty of talent, experience, athletic ability and depth as team captain Ryan Wilsberg, and former MVP Karen Grefe lead a squad that includes Lisa Tuthill, Christina Grefe, Gavin Moore and Kathy Moore. It wouldn't surprise anyone to see this team take a top four finish when all is said and done. Wilsberg is one of the rising stars of this league and his athleticism and enthusiasm for the game is unmatched. Keep an eye out because it's only a matter of time until he's considered for an MVP award. Last season, Mattituck Plumbing finished with a 22-22 record. Expect a winning record this season.

Country Time Cycle, the third place finisher in last season's invitational tournament features two standout players, big hitters Jon Weber and Matt Brown. Jason Kurra is a new addition and is expected to make an immediate impact.

Former MVP and team captain Becky Johnson leads another team rich with talent and experience in Kolb Mechanical. Last season team Kolb took a fifth place finish in the regular season has with its entire team returning, including Robin Jaeger, Bob Burke and Joe Green.

Native Eyewear is another interesting team with Sean Symanski and Barbara Olsen ready to make it an immediate contender. Symanski is a monster hitter and brings a championship attitude, while Olsen is one of the best female players on the fork. James Ringer and Fernando Benito round out this talented squad that could surprise some of the more established teams in the big tournament.

Another team that continues to move up the ranks is Mattituck Village Market (19-25 last season) as captain Paula Thilberg leads a deep team that includes Kenny Richert, Danielle Seeger, Courtney King and Danny Sheehan.

The Roy Reeve Agency team features a major impact player this season after adding Geoff Penny in the off season, and with veterans Howie Brodis, Rich Pepper and former MVP Patty Millman in place, along with another new addition in Bob Gammon, this is a team that could easily pull off a few upsets this summer and make the middle of the league standings quite interesting.

SandSkins, a team sponsored by the popular beach volleyball footwear company, went 21-23 last season and finished only three games out of third place due to the solid play of captain John Ramirez and Seth Haugland. They've since added Al Concepcion and now look to pick up where they left off.

Penny Lumber is another new-look team as captain Doug Van Slyke is the only returning player from last season. The trio of Kevin Deslauriers, Jen Triandifil, and Rich Triandifil hope to help improve upon the solid 21-23 season of 2005.

At Conference, a company based out of Southampton, replaces former sponsor Wilson Volleyball and features a young, athletic team that includes former Mattituck basketball standout Rob Conklin, former Mattituck soccer star Ryan Evans, along with Gabriella Macari, Maciej Szpakowski and newcomer Kelly Urbanik, a former four-year starter at California's UC Davis. Expect this team to put together some impressive games once they start to gel.

Volley Chick, a volleyball apparel company, replaces Spike Nashbar this season as returning captain Joanna Ott, former MVP John Czartosieski, Christine Box, and Fred Bacero could easily improve upon their .500 record while team Spike now sponsors the talented squad of Steve Kuhl, Lisa Hinsch, Missy Weiss and Mike Kimmelman.

Last, but not least, a new team sponsored by Mattituck ice cream parlor Lick-itty Splitz showcases Mary Motto-Kalich, Will Chilton, A.J. McIntyre, Rich Shore and Jim Zappulla.

The NFBVL season runs for 12 consecutive weeks as teams of four compete for the overall league championship before a one-day elimination tournament for the NF Invitational crown takes place on Sunday August 27.

The Save Dave Now tournament, which benefits Dave Deutsch, who is afflicted with ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease, is scheduled for this Saturday while the North Fork Beach Open to benefit Kim Haeg takes place on July 29. Both of these tournaments are officially sanctioned by the AVPNext (the amateur branch of the Association of Volleyball Professionals), and the top finishers in the open divisions will earn national championship ranking points.

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