Deerfield attracts top volleyballers

Posted on 19 January 2012 by LeslieM

Local beach volleyballers Mark and Steve Van Zwieten (right), said the competition on Deerfield Beach could be fierce. Photo by Gary Curreri

By Gary Curreri

With the Ranse Classic and the Red Bull Spiked Tournaments, Deerfield Beach has been making a name for itself both locally, nationally and now internationally as four Olympic teams have recently practiced on the local sand.

The most recent were the Canadian women and Russian men, who have spent the past two weeks at the local beach honing their skills and going through vigorous workouts and even playing against some of the top local competition.

Mark Van Zwieten, 24, of Pompano Beach, has been playing volleyball competitively for the past 15 years and played against the Russian team.

“I started in the backyard when I was 3 and that was because my family was into it,” said Van Zwieten, who graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School in 2005 and led his team to a 31-0 mark and a state championship. He was named the MVP.

“It is really nice that the beach is attracting top teams. It is something that I haven’t utilized as much as I would like to and it is something I am ready to start. I’ll be able to get out here more on weekends.”

Van Zwieten has also excelled on the beach. He has played in four FIVB Beach Volleyball Junior World Championships and competed in the Under 19 Beach Volleyball World Championships in France in 2005.

In October, Mark Van Zwieten and his partner, Andrew Fuller, placed fifth in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“It’s nice to represent the country,” Van Zwieten said. “I’ve gone to a lot of places through volleyball. The Pan Am games was an amazing event and I got to see the top players from around the world.”

Van Zwieten said the attraction to Deerfield Beach is simple since everything is so close.

“People can come down here and spend the whole day here,” he said. “You could play for a couple of hours, go grab lunch and come back and play some more. You don’t have to go and try and find parking or anything like that.”

The “pickup games” are very competitive.

“It varies throughout the year, but they can get really competitive,” Van Zwieten added. “There are consistently top level players coming through Deerfield and it is nice to see the variety of players from throughout the world.”

His brother, Steve Van Zwieten, 27, of Coconut Creek agreed:

“It is really cool,” said Steve Van Zwieten, who recently played in the USA Cuervo pro tournament with Mike DiPierro and placed 13th after losing to the second ranked team in the U.S. in Nick Lucena (Ft. Lauderdale) and Matt Fuerbringer. Van Zwieten’s wife, Kendra, is also a top player. “Just growing up here and being able to play all over the world. You go to California and Europe. It’s been great. California is definitely a little bit stronger, but everything is spread out. Everything on the east coast is here. Teams from Brazil and teams have come from California come here on a regular basis.”

Steve Van Zwieten believes the sport can continue to grow because of the juniors now playing.

“When I was 18, there was no juniors tour,” Steve Van Zwieten said. “Now, alongside our tour, there are junior kids. The sport is starting to grow, especially with the economy. It is a really cheap sport to play. Here, you just need a ball to play. You have to really be in shape because of the heat and the beach sand …  running around all day.”

Captain Lee Magnuson, who has a court dedicated in his name, helped get the courts built. Now, roughly 100 volleyballers, ranging in age from 14 to 72, will filter through Deerfield Beach on a weekly basis.

“Instead of going to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami, they will come to Deerfield Beach,” said Jimmy Mason, 54, who spends four months a year from Michigan. “It has a lot to offer – the restaurants, the pier and seven regulation courts and one futbal court.”

Local veteran volleyballer Hank Hoffman, 70, of Deer-field, said the sport got a boost locally when former Deerfield Beach resident, Cindy Phillips, started with Beach Dig and offered clinics.

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