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MAY 2, 2008

Spike invaders

Rounds of games, rounds of parties please volleyball players

Cleveland--Players from as far away as Atlanta descended on Cleveland for the North Coast Invasion invitational volleyball tournament, organized under the auspices of North Coast Athletics Volleyball.

While game play went from Friday, April 25 to Sunday, April 27, the party began on April 19 with a community mixer at Tom Balbo Galleries.

It went into full swing last weekend, though, as players from Columbus, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Cleveland came together to play ball and have a ball at venues around town.

With games at Cleveland State University’s Woodling Gym, players were kept busy with competition among the 20 teams in three divisions. North Coast Invasion was an official tournament of the North American Gay Volleyball Association.

The presence of teams from Atlanta and Pittsburgh was even more impressive consider that there was a tournament being held in Baltimore on the same weekend.

However, when the players were not breaking a sweat on the court, many of them were sweating with their fellow players at crowded parties throughout the city.

Club Argos hosted “Jocks in Their Jocks” on April 25, the Volleyball Dance was held at the Grid on Saturday night at DJ Jerry Griffith, wrapping up the weekend with the Hang It Up party at Twist on Sunday.

Saturday also saw the “Dig Inn” banquet at Union Station, where players from across the region dined together, bathing in the camaraderie.

In addition to the 150 players, there were also 50 volunteers on hand, ranging from men in their 60s to college students in the Kent State University chapter of gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi.

“NCAV and the North Coast Invasion were trying to create a broad community involvement type of event that would have a lasting impact on the community,” said tournament director Mike Readinger. “As a result of our efforts, the tournament’s net proceeds will be divided among three non-profit health and service organizations: Cleveland State University’s Physical Education Student Organization, Kent State University’s Alpha Psi chapter of Delta Lambda Phi and North Coast Athletics Volleyball.”

Readinger forwarded to the Gay People’s Chronicle an e-mail from one of the volunteer coordinators, Christian Ramamacher, who is also an NCAV board member.

Ramamacher was blown away by Readinger’s efforts on the tournament.

“It is a monumental tribute to you that it was received with such enthusiasm by players, embraced by the community, and supported by the NCAV league as well as NAGVA,” Ramamacher wrote. “Your zeal is contagious!”

That zeal is shared by other members of the volleyball league, who have donated food to the AIDS Taskforce pantry, volleyballs to girls’ intramural leagues at community recreation centers, and volunteered at community events.

League president Todd Saporito is also the board president of Cleveland LGBT Pride, which is busily organizing June’s Cleveland Pride parade and festival.

After the community mixer on April 19, Saporito commented on the importance of bringing people from different community groups together, and noted that his dual roles put him in a good position to do that.

The tournament last weekend was a continuation of that effort, expanding the focus to members of the LGBT community and their allies in other cities as well.

Putting aside noble sentiments about unity and community, it was still a tournament, and people were playing to win.

In Division A play, Atlanta Lola took first place, followed by Cleveland Twist Top Shelf in second and Columbus Shockers in third.

The BB Division saw Columbus Cowabunga nab the top spot, followed by Pittsburgh Steel Magnolias and Columbus Jean Grey.

Cleveland Sloppy Joes cemented their position at the top of Division B play, with Chicago Service This in second and Cleveland Grid Invaders in third.

Steve Oppenwader of Atlanta Lola was the Most Valuable Player for the A Division, while Jay Potter of Columbus Cowabunga and Ann Denison of Cleveland Sloppy Joes took Division BB and B MVP honors, respectively.

Among the team all-stars in the three divisions were Stephen Lippi, Derek Shulte and Brian Womack of Columbus, Angel Umali of Atlanta, Joe Gette and Scott Itano of Pittsburgh, Jeremy Nichols and Romero Hernandez of Chicago, and Cleveland’s Jason Vo, Tim Zaucha, Eddie Lucarelli, Giuseppe Shalino and Victor Senn.

The NAGVA championships will be held May 23-25 in Miami, and the Cincinnati Alternative Volleyball Association will hold their fourth annual Queen City Classic tournament from October 31 to November 2.

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