COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 2, 2012) – Under sunny skies of a mid-90s late spring day and a cooler breezy evening, 80 athletes went toe to toe on April 29 in the fourth annual Desert Open sand volleyball tournament, the Arizona stop of the USA Junior Beach Volleyball Tour.
Sarah Sponcil of Phoenix and Madeline Mertz of Phoenix walked away the big winners. The girls dominated the 16-and-under division, going undefeated and not dropping a set. They topped the team of Jenna Tunnell and Mallory Miller in the final. No team scored more than 13 points on the dynamic duo during pool play and the double elimination bracket.
Sponcil and Mertz then came back in the evening for the girls’ 18U division. The division featured one of the strongest lineups of sand talent Arizona has to offer. They lost in pool play to the Phoenix team of Katarina Schulz, headed to the University of Pacific, and Bianca Arellano, University of Tennessee bound, in a thriller 21-16, 17-21, 15-13.
They went into bracket play and faced Phoenix’s Abby Hornacek, playing sand at USC next year, and her partner from Flagstaff, Christian Otzen. Sponcil and Mertz won 21-16, 21-15 and earned another shot at Arellano and Schultz. This time, Sponcil and Mertz dug in and eked out a 21-15, 15-21, 19-17 win, capturing their second gold of the day. Arellano and Schultz finished second and Hornacek and Otzen took third place.
Nineteen teams battle in the girls’ 14U division, but a familiar pair rose to the podium as Phoenix’s Hailey Harward and Lilly Nelson repeated their Desert Open title topping Meagan McCall and Sami Hover in the gold medal match; their seventh full match of the tournament.
Khalia Lanier and Justine Spann finished third and Jayelin Lombard and Erica Ronda took a close fourth. All qualified for the USA Junior Beach Championships in Bradford Beach, Wis., in late July.
In the boys’ 18U division, Christian Honer and Quentin Campbell topped Ryne Benson and Carson Flood, 26-24, 25-23. Thomas Beauchamp and Garrett Roberts topped Wyatt Richards and Robert Jenkins for the third-place finish. In a grand gesture of sportsmanship, Benson and Flood, who are in the 16s age group, accepted their bid at 16s to allow all three 18U boys teams to qualify for Bradford Beach.
In the girls’ 12 division, Brooke Nuneviller and Lauren Weintraub topped Kyla Chavez and Grace Schmidt, 18-21, 21-9, 15-6 to close out the morning age groups and win the gold medal. Isis Mitchell and Mikaela Bassil won third place overtaking Hannah Moreno and MacKenna Hudson.