Region's top volleyball duos hit Howelsen's sand and grass

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— There's no hiding when it comes to doubles volleyball.

"In general, it's a higher level of play - you have to be solid because you're involved in every play," said Tom Davenport. "There's a significant degree of control over the destiny of your team because you are 50 percent of the team."

He should know. Davenport operates Volleyball of the Rockies and estimates he runs more than 600 teams of "volleyball programming" in every conceivable combination of genders, skill levels and playing surfaces.

Starting Friday, Davenport will bring doubles format volleyball - what he calls "the pinnacle of the outdoor game" - to the sand and grass courts of Howelsen Hill for the 26th annual Steamboat Powderkeg Volleyball Tournament.

Teams divided into four main divisions (Open, A, BB and B) will be gunning for $6,500 in prizes. Davenport correlated the skill levels of the four divisions to "pro, advanced, intermediate and recreation."

The top end of the talent pool should include the state's best players, including many with experience at the collegiate level and on pro-level circuits, Davenport said.

While the majority of the registered 325 teams will be arriving from the Front Range, this year's tournament will include nearly 30 Utah teams, as well as representatives from Nebraska, Minnesota, California and Washington.

"We've really carved out a niche as the top regional tournament," Davenport said, estimating the tournament should bring 600 to 700 people, "predominantly co-ed professional couples," for the weekend.

Events start at 5 p.m. Friday at Howelsen Hill with event check-in and the Dinosaur division finals (combined age of at least 78), featuring live music from Ken Lee. Pool play for most grass and sand divisions runs from early Saturday morning to sundown and then the double-elimination, tournament and finals play will round out the events Sunday. A single-elimination co-ed grass tournament also will be held Sunday.

Registration will remain open until Friday for most divisions. Visit www.steamboatdoubles.com for more information.

- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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