F&AJ’s win Comet Bowl Sand Volleyball League championship
By John Burbridge
CHARLES CITY — The Comet Bowl Sand Volleyball League usually stresses fun while playing under the summer sun.
But late into its postseason tournament, things can get serious.
“When they’re going over to the opponents’ side of the net to adjust the boundary lines, you know it’s getting serious,” said Comet Bowl owner and tournament director Mark Barry, after Cari Knowlton of Hot Shots crossed the line in the sand to right a boundary sideline poll on Team 6’s court during the semifinals.
With Abbey and Cari Knowlton, Ashley Pahnisch, Ashley Schlader, Andrea Schrage and Austin Hangartner, Hot Shots boasted the most predominantly female lineup in the tournament. During the final night of the two-night double-elimination tournament on Thursday, Hot Shots got on a roll while advancing to the championship round.
Having to battle back through the loser’s bracket, Hot Shots was forced to play repeated best-of-three matches with little rest in between, but seemed to get stronger as the night wore on.
Waiting for them was league perennial power F&AJ’s, which only lost one match during the regular season and was undefeated in the winner’s bracket.
Hot Shots would have to defeat F&AJ’s twice in the championship round for the title.
The tournament was already breaching 9 p.m. as the stars were now visible in the sky and floodlights were needed to illuminate the court.
With the imposing tall presence of Francisco Ruiz playing above the net while recording numerous blocking and hitting kills, F&AJ’s easily won the first set and took an early lead into the second set.
But Hot Shots wouldn’t go away and rallied back to take a 9-8 lead in a race to 15.
That’s when F&AJ’s Alexa Bock, who serves as the team’s coach on the floor — or rather in the sand — shored up the team’s defensive alignment and cajoled her teammates to pick up the effort.
Soon after, Bock slapped in three straight service points to cap the match and championship.
Other players on F&AJ’s included Jordan Bock, Amanda Dietzenbach and Jeremy Miller.