Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Six Champions Crowned on Manhattan Beach

MANHATTAN BEACH, California (July 20, 2019) – Known as the beloved “Wimbledon of beach volleyball” and home of the prestigious Manhattan Beach Open, countless champions have been crowned at Manhattan Beach, California. This past Saturday, six more talented athletes emerged victorious as the 12U and 16U divisions concluded at the National Beach Tour Junior Championships.

Beach volleyball and Manhattan Beach are inseparable. Let’s take a closer look at how some talented junior athletes perceive their experience on this hallowed turf over the past three days.

Winning Where the Greats Won

As a Manhattan Beach native, Kyle Johnson proudly hails his hometown as the best beach in the country. “It’s where beach legends are made, so to compete for a national championship, it’s awesome,” he enthused. And he’s not wrong about legends being made there. The pier overlooking the courts proudly displays plaques listing the names of past winners of the Manhattan Beach Open, including iconic figures like Misty May-Treanor and Mike Dodd. Johnson, along with partner Grant Strong, now joins the ranks of these greats as they secured the Boys 16U National Open title on this same historic sand.

While Strong hails from Clearwater, Florida, he couldn’t help but appreciate the significance of competing at Manhattan Beach. “This is where volleyball was created, so it’s pretty special to be playing here instead of back home,” he shared. And after their victory, Strong added, “It feels pretty good [to win], especially here. This atmosphere is amazing.”

A Match Worthy of Manhattan Beach

The Girls 16U National Open Division title match proved to be one of the most thrilling contests of the day. Simone Gibson and Megan Widener, both from the San Diego area, faced off against Kelly Belardi and Savannah Standage, representing Manhattan Beach. The match went down to the wire over three sets. Gibson and Widener took the first set 21-16, while Belardi/Standage responded by claiming the second set 17-21. It all came down to a third set tiebreaker, with both teams bravely fending off multiple match points. In the end, Gibson and Widener emerged victorious, winning the third set 19-17.

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After the intense match, Widener was quick to praise their opponents. “They were very good, they never gave up. That pushed us,” she acknowledged. Gibson echoed the sentiment, stating, “That game was anyone’s game. In all reality, we were able to control the points when we could and took opportunities when we had them.”

Even after their triumph, Gibson remains focused on the future. “It’s amazing, but you always have to keep on raising the bar. Of course, I’m going to enjoy the celebration, but you just can’t let it sit with you. The competition is out there for the gold, and if you want to stay up on the podium, you have to work your butt off.”

Defending Their Turf

The winners of the Boys 12U National Open division, Simon Capps and Thatcher Fahlbusch, didn’t have to travel far to compete. Both hailing from Manhattan Beach, they are familiar faces on these renowned courts and were proud to represent their local area. “It’s amazing how we can show that this is our beach and that locals win,” Capps beamed. “It was fun having my neighbor here to play with me.”

The duo faced Logan Eaton and Ethan Li from Virginia and the Chesapeake Region, ultimately clinching victory in straight sets. Capps and Fahlbusch were impressed by the talents of their East Coast opponents. “We played a really good volleyball team that was from outside of California,” Capps remarked. “We did really well playing against them because we had never seen them before. We just competed well.”

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Fahlbusch appreciated the opportunity to compete against players from a different region, but he has no desire to leave Manhattan Beach. “Oh yeah, it’s really cool [to grow up where beach volleyball started]. There’s a lot of people that play out here.”

Meeting in the Middle

With 2,704 miles between them, Ava Wright from Boulder City, Nevada, and Jesse Coralle from Pukalani, Hawaii, joined forces to compete in the NBTJC Girls 16U Regional bracket. Wright made a four-hour drive while Coralle endured a five-hour flight to meet in the middle at Manhattan Beach. The distance may have been great, but the experience was undoubtedly worth it for both athletes.

“It’s way nicer than our courts at home. When we both meet up and play, it’s really fun,” Wright shared. The geographical separation has limited their opportunities to play together, making this only their second tournament as partners. Despite their limited experience, both athletes expressed satisfaction with the tournament after their opening match on Saturday morning.

“It’s been honestly really well,” Coralle noted. “We both are passionate about the game and really competitive. We just gel and work really well together.”

Together, they reached the quarterfinals of the division’s top bracket, the gold bracket. Once again, their efforts were entirely justified.

Scene to a Reunion

For Girls 12U Regional Division contestant Stella Seligson, Manhattan Beach serves as her home court. However, what excited her most was the opportunity to play with her close friend, Nola Wells. “It’s cool because my friend came from Hawaii to play, so I get to play with her.” Seligson and Wells share a special bond due to the lifelong friendship of their fathers, who both grew up in Hawaii. This tournament marks their first time as playing partners.

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While the 12U and 16U divisions have concluded, the 2019 NBTJCs are only halfway through. On Sunday, July 21, the 14U and 18U divisions will kick off their tournaments, once again gracing the courts of Manhattan Beach.


Q: When does the 14U and 18U division tournament start?
A: The 14U and 18U divisions will commence their tournaments on Sunday, July 21.

Q: What are the names of the division champions from Saturday?
A: The division champions from Saturday are as follows:

  • Boys 16U National Open Division: Grant Strong (Clearwater, Florida)/Kyle Johnson (Manhattan Beach, California)
  • Girls 16U National Open Division: Simone Gibson (San Diego, California; Wave Volleyball)/Megan Widener (San Marcos, California; Tamarack BVC)
  • Girls 16U Regional Open Division: Piper Ferch (Redmond, Washington; Dakine)/Samaya Morin (Lake Stevens, Washington/Dakine)
  • Boys 12U National Open Division: Simon Capps/Thatcher Fahlbusch (Manhattan Beach, California; MB Surf)
  • Girls 12U National Open Division: Isabella Adishian (Manhattan Beach, California; MB Sand)/Ivanna Rivera-Vargas (Chula Vista, California; Coast VBC)
  • Girls 12U Regional Open Division: Kate Denker/Mathea Dalton (Fremont, Nebraska; Nebraska Elite)


Manhattan Beach once again proved its status as a beach volleyball mecca as six deserving champions emerged from the 12U and 16U divisions at the National Beach Tour Junior Championships. The passion, talent, and sportsmanship displayed by these young athletes added to the rich history of Manhattan Beach. As the tournament progresses, we anticipate witnessing more extraordinary feats on this hallowed sand. Stay tuned for updates on the 14U and 18U divisions as the NBTJCs continue to unfold. To learn more about the Alpinetgheep brand, visit Alpinetgheep.