ST. GEORGE — Camie Manwill and Christie Carpenter are practically poster children for the sport of sand volleyball — young, beautiful, athletic and fun-loving.
The two women were in town for the “Spring Fling” two-man volleyball tournament Saturday and their sun-tanned bodies and bubbly personalities could make a fan of just about anyone.
“There’s nothing better than being out in this beautiful world and doing the sport we absolutely love,” said Manwill, who recently returned from an LDS Mission after starring for Utah Valley University’s volleyball team as an outside hitter. “When you’re with the right people, there’s nothing, well, it’s almost addicting. Playing on the sand is kind of hard at first, but the more you get into it, the more your body craves it and it’s good for you.”
Five teams competed at the highest level, the women’s Open Division, Saturday at Sand Hollow Aquatic Center. Other lower division women’s teams, as well as the men’s divisions, junior divisions and co-ed divisions all competed at Vernon Worthen park with a total of 312 athletes vying for prizes and working on their tans on a gorgeous day in Utah’s Dixie.
“We love St. George and we love the area,” said Sundi Brown, the women’s open division coordinator. “We have great mix of everyone. With Misty (May) and Kerri (Walsh), and what they did with the Olympics, it really brought attention to the sport. It’s a fabulous sport. You get to learn every skill.”
Cinthia Angus, originally from Brazil, but now living in Salt Lake City, was part of a two-woman team with Carol Grasso. The duo coaches youth volleyball at the High Country Volleyball Club in Draper.
“Volleyball is the second-biggest sport in Brazil behind soccer, for both women and men,” said Angus, who played collegiate volleyball at the University of Utah. “It’s so fun and it’s such a good workout. One of the best things is the friends we have and the ones we make out here.”
Among the highlights for the men’s Open Division was the presence of two of the top professionals in the world, Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson. Normally partners, Gibb and Patterson teamed up with other pros in the Open Division for Saturday’s professional circuit “warm-up.” As a team, Gibb and Patterson are ranked No. 1 in the United States on the American Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Tour.
“This is the biggest tournament in Utah,” said Gibb, who grew up in Bountiful, a long way from any real beach. “It’s held here in St. George. It’s an awesome thing. there are a lot of professionals and semi-pro players that play here and so I get to come back and see my old friends. I started playing here, so it’s really fun for me.”
Patterson, sporting his trademark Mohawk hair, is a former BYU All-American.
“We get here at the ‘Opener’ some of the best players here, really, in the world,” said David Talley, a former pro himself who was acting as the men’s Open Division coordinator. “You know, a lot of these guys are from Utah. The sport is really strong here. Other than California and maybe Florida, I’d say Utah is one of the strongest states for volleyball.”
Along with the “Closer” event in October, St. George City is a big proponent of the sport of sand volleyball.
“This is our biggest field ever,” event coordinator Michelle Graves. “We’re really happy with the number of teams and competitors we have.”
For full tournament results, got to the Utah Outdoor Volleyball website.
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