By Danielle Lipiec // Photos by Philm.Photography
Cherry Grove’s ninth annual LezVolley tournament kicked off with perfect weather and a record-setting numbers on Saturday, Aug. 17. The beach was packed with tents, courts, players, spectators and beachgoers stopping by to peek in on the fun.
LezVolley got its start nine years ago when co-founders Kristine Bungay and Danielle Stanziale noticed a void in the community with the loss of a popular dodgeball tournament, which relocated to New Jersey.
“Danielle and I started thinking, ‘We’ve got to give something back to Fire Island,’ because we love this place, we love this community and we love the game. We figured, let’s do beach volleyball,” said Bungay.
“This whole conversation happened over a cocktail,” Stanziale added. The women’s volleyball tournament draws in players of all experience levels from all over the tri-state area. They bring with them their spirit, determination to win and have fun, and unique team names like Sugar and Spike, Big Dyke Energy, Biscuit Eaters and NKIAL (Nobody Knows I’m A Lesbian) among others.
Every year, the LezVolley tournament attracts more players and a bigger audience. Now one year shy of its first decade mark, LezVolley has set its record for its largest enrollment, boasting 25 teams and 220 players. Bungay and Stanziale credit the event’s success to the teams that return year after year.
With the magnitude LezVolley has reached, Bungay and Stanziale must begin their work eight months ahead of the tournament. However, Bungay and Stanziale are used to working at a fast pace and are equipped for the hard work and busy months the event brings.
Both hail from New York City, where Bungay is a DJ at the Stonewall Inn, and Stanziale is a party promoter.
“We start in January, when we contact a lot of brands that are LGBTQ friendly and want to give back to the community,” said Stanziale. “Then we go after all the teams that have been back before to let them know sign ups are back, up and running around springtime. From there, the teams start signing up until the end of July.”
Eighteen sponsors decided to show their support at the event this year, offering free goodies and materials for the welcome bags each team receives, as well as the winners’ prizes. New to LezVolley this year was a raffle, which offered up everything ranging from clothes to a two-person vacation.
Also, an award was introduced in memory of Shea Carman Swan, a player who recently passed away. Her family has set up funding for the “Love, Shea” award, which shall be bestowed to the team deemed fan favorite annually. The inaugural custom volleyball Love, Shea award went to The Kikis!
The final match came after a long day of competitive fun and plenty of games. In a head-to-head final between teams I’d Hit That and Scissors, I’d Hit That managed to edge out Scissors – as well as the rest of the tournament’s record-setting number of competitors – and come out on top as the 2019 Lez- Volley champions. One team takes home the trophy – all earn a piece of the glory – and that’s why the teams return again each summer.
All teams, new and old, are welcomed to participate in the 10th annual Lez Volley tournament next year – in its same spot – on the weekend of Aug. 15, 2020.
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