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When the rule is not the exception

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    2015 July 23 SPT - Spencer Mclachlin (white tank), left and James Ka practice beach volleyball at Outrigger Canoe Club sand courts in Waikiki on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by Krystle Marcellus keywords:
    Hawaii beach volleyball players Spencer McLachlin and James Ka
    Hawaii beach volleyball players Spencer McLachlin
    Hawaii beach volleyball players Spencer McLachlin and James Ka
    James Ka practiced at the Outrigger Canoe Club sand courts on Thursday.

Indoor volleyball and beach volleyball.

Two different sports, each with its own skill-set.

Being proficient in one does not necessarily translate into success in the other.

But, when it comes to those who grew up in Hawaii, excelling at both is becoming the rule rather than the exception. Consider last weekend’s inaugural AVP New York City Open where, some 5,000 miles away from the acknowledged birthplace of beach volleyball, six players from Hawaii who had successful collegiate indoor careers were on the Pier 26 courts: Brad Lawson, Spencer McLachlin, and brothers Taylor and Trevor Crabb, and Maddison and Riley McKibbin.

Trevor Crabb, playing with Ty Tramble, came out of the contenders bracket to finish third, falling to eventual champions and top seeds Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson in the semifinals. Lawson, partnering with Adam Roberts, didn’t make it into the 16-team main draw, sharing 21st, while the McKibbin brother duo and Taylor Crabb-McLachlin shared 13th place after making it to the main draw only to be eliminated in the contenders bracket first round.

Honolulu tour stop
>> What: Men’s and women’s open doubles tournament
>> When: Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
>> Where: Queen’s Beach
>> Website:

This is the next generation of pro beach players from Hawaii, one that includes Tri Bourne, currently ranked No. 15 on the FIVB World Tour with partner John Hyden.

More of them will be on display Saturday as the AVPNext, the official developmental program that serves as a qualification process for elite amateurs to earn qualification points, national rankings and entries into the main draws of AVP events. It is the first time in over a decade that the Association of Volleyball Professionals will have a competition presence in Hawaii.

"We’ve got some great players from Hawaii coming up through the pipeline," said Kevin Wong, whose Spike and Serve program is serving as event sponsor. "The AVP has been pushing to be back here and we’re stoked about giving players in Hawaii, especially those who cannot travel to mainland events, this opportunity.

"We’ve got some top collegians like (current Rainbow Wahine) Nikki Taylor and (former Rainbow Warriors) Johann Timmer and Nick Castello, good up-and-coming beach players."

McLachlin is in that group, having decided to trade in his pro indoor career for one on the beach. Eleven months after shoulder surgery for a torn right labrum, the 27-year-old will partner with former Pepperdine and Kamehameha standout James Ka on Saturday.

"It’s always good to be back in Hawaii, it’s home and, on top of that, you’re talking about one of the greatest places on earth to play volleyball, whether it’s the Stan Sheriff Center or Queen’s," said McLachlin, who won indoor titles at Punahou and Stanford. "There were so many great players from Hawaii who inspired me … Kevin Wong, Scott Wong, Stein Metzger, Lee LeGrand … I was always hoping to make that transition. And seeing the current guys like the Crabbs, McKibbins and Tri, it has been pretty inspiring.

"I decided to give it a shot. If there was going to be a time in my life to do it, it’s now. I’m happy we’re in Hawaii. It’s a great reason to come home and play in front of family and friends again."

McLachlin and Taylor Crabb have been successful on the AVPNext circuit, winning one event and finishing second twice. With Crabb unable to play due to another commitment, any points McLachlin receives from Saturday’s event will count as a new team.

Ka said he is looking forward to pairing with McLachlin, an invitation that was unexpected. The two had played together off and on over the years with, according to McLachlin, Ka giving him valuable tips on blocking.

"I didn’t intend to be playing," said Ka, a 33-year-old financial adviser and Rainbow Wahine volunteer assistant volleyball coach. "Whenever Spencer’s in town, it’s always great to have him as a teammate. Of course, we expect to win (Saturday). You have to think that, otherwise you shouldn’t be competing.

"My goal is to play well and have a good time. Hopefully, this event will revitalize things out here and get the younger kids coming out of high school thinking about playing at this level."

Saturday’s event for both men and women is part of the point process that leads to a bid into the main draw of next month’s prestigious Manhattan Beach Open. It is unlikely that the Honolulu tournament will be enough to qualify.

"All I can say is Manhattan is to beach volleyball what Wimbledon is to tennis," said Kevin Wong, a two-time winner of the California event. "You have 100 courts out there, fans camped out at the beach. It’s enmeshed in the beach culture.

"There’s interest in having a full slate of (AVP) tournaments here. We’re getting our feet wet this weekend."

McLachlin said there were a number of memories he took away from playing in New York City, from the venue near the World Trade Center to the support from New Yorkers to playing on center court in an AVP event. The best perhaps, he said was being with so many childhood friends who were chasing the same dream.

"The McKibbins were in the match before us and we were cheering them on," McLachlin said. "After they lost, they could have dug out but they stuck around to cheer for us. It was great to be in the same competition with some of your best friends."

Entries are still open but limited to 24 teams per gender. Players must be at least 14 years of age as of Saturday and become an AVPNext member.

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