Ranse Classic draws hundreds of players

Posted on 07 November 2019 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri

The 10th Annual Ranse Classic Beach Volleyball tournament was more about the camaraderie and the community rather than the competition.

An estimated 300 players took part in the beach volleyball tournament north of the Deerfield Beach pier that celebrated the life of Ranseford “Ranse” Jones. From junior players to top open competitors, there was a sense of pride among all at the 30 sand volleyball courts.

Tournament Director Diogo Sousa said the event holds a special place in his heart. He met Jones when he was younger at Deerfield Beach.

“I was 16 and he was one of the first people to stand up for me at Deerfield Beach when nobody would let me on the volleyball courts,” said Sousa, now 31, who lives nearby. “He was the first person I played with and, after we played for one day together, he went around to everybody and told them I was allowed to play anytime I wanted in Deerfield.”

“Since then,” he added, “this has been my home beach to play on. It is truly amazing to see someone’s life celebrated, year in and year out.

There are so many people that support the charity and the type of person that Ranse was. Everybody loved him and they continue to show love, not only to Ranse who passed away, but his family. His mother and father come down for this event every year.”

“This is way above cool,” said Jones’ mother, Sherry Marthinuss. “It is going to take me the whole weekend to come down from this. Ranse connected with people, obviously, and that is what he left us with. It is his legacy. That’s why we get together every year and celebrate that and keep building on it.

“We call it the biggest reunion on the east coast,” she continued. “A lot of the volleyball players he played with and knew still compete and want to win. It is great vibes and lots of love.”

In April 2010, Jones, a former Deerfield Beach firefighter, suffered a brain aneurysm while playing in the semifinals of the Panama City AVP Young Guns tournament. He died Nov. 8 that year at the young age of 34. Jones had played in 21 AVP tournaments since 2000. He also spent time on the Extreme Volleyball Professionals tour and competed in the Men’s Open Division of the 2009 U.S. Open of Beach Volleyball.

The Ranse Volleyball Classic has evolved into a nationally-recognized event to benefit Stroke Awareness, through the hard work of the local volleyball community.

The tournament generally raises between $20-$30,000 on an annual basis for the Ranse Jones Stroke Awareness Fund at the Broward Health North Stroke Center. To date, the event just exceeded $300,000.

Nikki Esposito, 22, has been coming to the tournament for years. Her father, John, is one of the organizers. She starred at Pompano Beach High School before playing with the FSU Seminoles.

“I have been playing in this tournament since I was 12,” she said. “Because I have been playing at Florida State, I haven’t been able to play in the tournament for the last four years, so I made the drive down this year.

“It has grown a lot and almost doubled in players this year,” she said. “It is so much fun getting everyone together from all over the state and the country. I made new friends. We just had a lot of fun.”

Flavia Fernandes, 36, also of Deerfield Beach, said the tournament is definitely for fun. She has also played in the tournament for about five years. She coached Esposito when she was younger.

“This tournament is not so much about winning, or the competition,” Fernandes said. “You still have the competitive drive and at the end of the day, you know it is for a good cause.

“For me, this is the most fun tournament of the year,” Fernandes said. “This is special for me because everyone comes from so far and I see the hard work that the organizers put in. We all look forward to it.”

Jonathan Rogers, 28, of Deerfield Beach, said they had nice weather on the first day and a little rain on the second.

“Usually, it is pretty windy this time of year,” Rogers said. “It was really sunny and really a nice day for volleyball. Considering the format and that you don’t know the partner you are playing with, I was pretty happy that we made it to the semifinals of the open division.

“I ended up being paired up with a guy from Brazil,” Rogers added. “He was a really cool dude. We couldn’t communicate because he didn’t speak English, but it was fun.”

3rd Annual Ryan Owens Memorial Run set for Saturday

The 3rd Annual Ryan Owens Memorial Run is set for Nov. 9 on Deerfield Beach. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. Organized by the Naked Warrior Project, the run pays tribute to Fallen Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens, who grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and was killed in action on Jan. 29, 2017. 

The four-mile beach run on Deerfield Beach is fashioned after the weekly timed beach runs in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training that candidates must pass. Runners of all levels are welcome. Limited to 500 runners, the race will be timed and medals awarded. The entry fee is $40. 

“I began The Naked Warrior Project in 2017 to ensure that the memory of these brave warriors and their sacrifices are never forgotten,” said South Florida resident John Owens, a retired Navy SEAL and brother of Ryan Owens. The mission of the non-profit organization is to memorialize fallen Navy SEALs, help injured Navy SEALs in their recovery and provide support to their families through education, connecting families and building memorials.

“This run is our largest event of the year,” said Owens. “We run this race to honor Ryan’s life and the money raised this year will go toward building a memorial to Ryan here in South Florida.”

Following the run, the organization’s annual dinner and silent auction will be held at the Royal Palm Yacht Club in Boca Raton. Dinner tickets are $150 per person. Dinner sponsorship opportunities are available at different levels. The evening also includes a silent auction. The organization holds several other annual fundraising events including a fishing tournament and golf outings.

To register for the run, learn more about sponsorships and donations and for more information, visit NakedWarriorProject.org.

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