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April 25, 2008

Gallery bash kicks off tournament weekend

Cleveland--Emphasizing connections within the LGBT community, the North Coast Athletics Volleyball league hosted 250 people for a party at Tom Balbo Galleries.

The April 19 event at the Hough Ave. gallery combined an awards presentation ending the league’s winter session, an introduction to this weekend’s North Coast Invasion volleyball tournament and a community mixer.

In that last function, it drew representatives from the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, the Organ Grinders, the Cleveland LGBT Center, the North Coast Athletics Association softball league, the North Coast Bowling Association, the Rainbow Wranglers, Cleveland Pride, TransFamily, and the Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend that begins Friday.

“I’m hoping the true nature of this event will demonstrate that leaders in Cleveland have to work very hard to gather members from all organizations to come together frequently, meet and break down barriers,” said volleyball president and league commissioner Todd Saporito. “I’m in a unique position as president of [the volleyball league] and Cleveland Pride to bring organizations together.”

The winter session of volleyball play saw the league tying its record-breaking number of teams with 24, and also increasing the number of players coming in from other community organizations like TransFamily by ten percent, according to Saporito.

“This was important to NCAV’s leadership, to demonstrate that NCAV is a home for everyone of the LGBTQQ community,” he noted, pointing out that the league’s membership perks program now offers discounts at 47 businesses to volleyball players.

As for the awards portion of the evening, the Brown Dog Real Estate Renegades won the intermediate division, the Bounce Bumpin’ Uglies took the advanced division and North Coast Twist nabbed top honors in the competitive division.

For most improved player, the intermediate division saw a tie between Christopher Miller and Kevin Schmotzer, while Dan Hegadore and Troy Cornish took the honors for the advanced and competitive divisions respectively.

The intermediate division also saw a tie for most valuable player, with Brian Brumme and Carol Cover sharing that distinction. In the advanced division, Ken Henry was picked as MVP, and Tim Zaucha was feted in the competitive division.

The event also saw the presentation of the third Jimmy Stallard Living the Spirit Player Award, this time to vice commissioner W. Doug Anderson.

Saporito created the award in 1996.

“Jimmy took me under his wing, nurtured me, and brought up many players in LGBT volleyball,” he noted. “It is a true acknowledgement of his contribution to Cleveland.”

 “It is a very special award, only given to those of highest achievement for their contribution to the league,” Saporito expounded. “Alex Bruchec was the first member of our original LGBT volleyball league in 1996. The next individual, just last year, Joseph Wright, was given this award in 2007.”

The North Coast Invasion, which is a North American Gay and Lesbian Volleyball Association-recognized tournament, kicks off with a registration party at Club Argos on Friday, a banquet and seeding party at Union Station followed by an open party for the community at the Grid on Saturday, and a closing party at Twist on Sunday. Game play will be at Woodling Gym on the Cleveland State University campus.

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