MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (July 30, 2018) – Play at the USA Volleyball Beach High Performance Championships began on Monday with qualification matches for the 17U girls division.

While they played, teams in other divisions trained and prepared for the main draw play on Tuesday. The tournament will conclude on Wednesday.

There are more than 200 players competing, including teams from Canada, Australia and Puerto Rico.

The international competition is important, as some members of the Beach Junior National Team discovered when they competed at the recent FIVB U19 World Championships in Nanjing, China.

None of the four U.S. teams that competed in Nanjing had played internationally before.

“You go into international competition and you hear that it’s going to be this whole new world,” Devon Newberry said. “We had no idea what to expect. To have such an experience with the most amazing team. To all support each other and to go through such hard times, all just to play the sport that we love was the best experience.”

Newberry and partner Lindsey Sparks finished fourth at the U19 Worlds. They found international competition to be much different than what they have faced in the United States.

“Those girls are physical. It’s not like here,” Sparks said. “We have this spotty game. Those girls just come in hard every time and try to nail the ball at you.”

“It’s a big game,” agreed Jacob Titus, who played one qualifier match with partner Jason Gibbs. “A lot of the guys are not necessarily huge, but everybody is able to jump and swing.”

Ali Lamberson, who coaches the Junior Beach Team, said the more international experience that the U.S. teams can get, the better.

“A lot of the European teams play against each other all the time,” she said. “And they play in the adult events on the European tour. Our kids play a lot of youth events, so they don’t see the power game. We could out-ball-control, we could dig anyone we played. We weren’t used to having to come in hard and hit the ball every time. We weren’t used to having to put a block up so often.”

Newberry and Sparks will compete at the Youth Olympic Games on Oct. 6-18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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The USAV Beach High Performance Championships is a major step in USA Volleyball’s Path to the Podium. How does USAV develop Olympians? Talent is identified, evaluated and developed at events like the HP Championships, where America’s next superstars showcase their talents first in training, then in competition.

The program is designed to train those athletes (coaches and officials) with the highest skill level, and potential to represent USA Volleyball internationally in the future.