David Beleznay of Vancouver delivers the clinching kill in the men's final of the Clearly Parksville Pro Open beach volleyball tournament at Community Park in Parksville Sunday.

Throwback team throws down in the sand

Vancouver veterans claim third straight men's title as Pro Beach Volleyball Tour makes annual stop in Parksville

Beach volleyball may be a young person’s game, but a couple of Vancouver veterans showed there is still a role for old age and treachery Sunday in Parksville.

Ryan Gandy, 41, and partner David Beleznay, 34, swept to their third straight men’s title in the Clearly Parksville Pro Open Beach Volleyball Tournament at Community Park, sweeping Ben Ricketts and Joel Caschetto 21-12, 21-16.

“I’m twice as old as some of these guys out here,” said Gandy, a transplanted South African. “And David is almost there.”

“As long as we win, I don’t mind,” Beleznay added with a grin.

The pair collected $660 for their winning share in the $2,500 tournament, the third in B.C. Volleyball’s $25,000, 2016 beach volleyball series.

The two have known each other since Gandy arrived in Vancouver in 2000 to attend the University of British Columbia and play on the men’s volleyball team. Beleznay was a first-year university student there and the two spent the next four years playing together on the school’s team.

“We’ve been a (beach volleyball) team for six years,” said Gandy, “so we play well together. Actually, we know all these guys out here. Everybody knows everybody else; it makes it fun.”

While Gandy and Beleznay have played together for more than a decade, their semifinal opponents were a cross-country tandem still getting the feel for each other’s games.

Devin Dunn of Langley, 21, and Dallas Keith of Toronto, 23, will travel next month to represent Canada in the World University Beach Volleyball Championships in Parnu, Estonia after winning the Canadian qualifier in Toronto in March. It was the first time the two had played together.

“I’d met Devin a year prior when I came to Vancouver,” said Keith. “When I heard about the championships, I messaged him on Facebook. We had one practice; he flew in (to Toronto) on a Thursday, we practised Friday and the tournament started on Saturday.”

Keith returned the favour this month, flying to B.C. to join Dunn in the B.C. pro series so the two could get some extra competition in before the July 13-17 world games. The pair went on to place third after falling to Gandy and Beleznay in the semifinals in Parksville, in Keith’s first trip to Vancouver Island.

The tournament opened under steady rain showers Saturday, though Sunday’s finals were played under cool, cloudy but dry conditions.

“I’m a fan of the rain,” Dunn said. “It keeps the sand packed, which is good for us lighter players. It helps you jump.”

The women’s championship went to Braun Thomas and Joanna Rachelle, who were playing together for the first time because their regular partners were unable to make the trip to Parksville.

The Vancouver-based duo topped Liz Cordonier and Juliana Kaufmanis in a tight, 21-19, 24-22 final.

“We wanted to be in the top four, but we felt we had no pressure,” said Thomas, who had won this tournament two years ago with another partner.

En route to their title, she and Rachelle upended the defending champions, Darby Dunn and Quincy Berker, in the semifinals.

“That was the point when we realized we could actually win this,” Thomas said.

The Volleyball B.C. tournament was run with the assistance of local volunteers from Oceanside Outdoor Sport, which also hosted the first event in its Youth Sand Series in conjunction with Sunday’s pro finals.

This Saturday, Oceanside Outdoor will host Thibault’s Tournament, a memorial adult and youth triples tournament to raise money for a scholarship in the name of the late player and coach Ryan Thibault.

Registration is $75 per team of three. Online registration and info is available at www.oceansideoutdoorsport.com.

Above: Hannah May of Victoria, right, tips the ball over an attempted block by Keira Christensen of Nanaimo during the first Youth Sand Series beach volleyball event of the season at Community Park in Parksville Sunday. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

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