Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Notre Dame-Belmont’s Kat Ho, left, and Katie Smoot compete in the inaugural match of the Northern California High School Sand Volleyball League Sunday on the recently installed beach volleyball courts at the Foundry in Redwood City.
The world of club volleyball prides itself on athletes taking their game to the next level. One of the premier club volleyball facilities in Northern California recently took its game to the next level as well.
Foundry owner Matt Krebs already houses three county volleyball clubs in the 40,000 square-foot indoor facility in Redwood City. Now he has expanded into the beach volleyball world as well. In December, the Foundry, in conjunction with the Association of Volleyball Professionals, opened four beach volleyball courts along Westpoint Harbor overlooking the San Francisco Bay. It is the first AVP-owned outdoor facility located in Northern California.
“It’s exciting to be able to partner with the AVP and put something like this on,” Krebs said.
There are several outdoor volleyball locales in Southern California, including at Malibu Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Huntington Beach. Previous to the newly opened facility in Redwood City, however, the sand volleyball courts nearest to San Mateo County were located at Stanford, while the most practical locale for beach volleyball tournaments was at Santa Cruz Beach.
“It’s not as prevalent here as it is in Southern California,” Krebs said. “Northern California is still way behind.”
With the first official tournament at the Foundry held Sunday, four Bay Area schools debuted their club beach volleyball teams as part of the Northern California High School Sand Volleyball League, including two county schools — Notre Dame-Belmont and Woodside. Rounding out the league are Palo Alto and Branson School-Ross.
Barry Peters — whose daughter Kendall is a varsity indoor volleyball player at NDB — is serving as the commissioner of the league, which will hold three tournaments to decide a Northern California team champion. Sunday’s tourney was the first. The second will be held April 15 in Larkspur at Piper Park. The third will be held May 7 at a location to be determined. The state championship is slated for May 20 in Los Angeles.
Branson earned the tourney title Sunday, led by its No. 1-ranked team of Ashley Delgado and Sophia Leswing. NDB took second place, paced by its No. 1 duo of Katie Smoot and Kat Ho. NDB featured four teams, including No. 2-ranked Maddie Baumann and Lauren Payne; No. 3 Mavis Lui and Victoria Giomit; and No. 4 Bianca Lopez.
Palo Alto took third place. Woodside — represented by No. 1-ranked Claire Cicchetti and Jessie Crowley; No. 2 Jennifer Buja and Lena McDonough; and No. 3 Julia Healey and Sarah Struss — took fourth place.
Peters’ daughter Kendall, known more for her beach volleyball accolades in recent years, did not play in the tournament due to a concurrent match with her Encore club team, one of the clubs housed at the Foundry.
“A lot of the things we’re competing with is from indoor club (volleyball),” Peters said. “But a lot of the girls are taking to it.”
Smoot is a prime example of one who is taking to it. A senior at NDB, Smoot was recruited to play Division I indoor volleyball at University of Arizona. She has since expanded her collegiate workload by joining Arizona’s beach volleyball program as well.
Smoot is already refining her schedule to suit both arenas. On Tuesdays and Thursday, she dispatches straight from school in Belmont to attend beach volleyball practice at the Foundry from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. She then heads indoors for practice with her Encore 18-and-under team from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m.
A standout indoor player who earned West Bay Athletic League MVP honors in 2016, Smoot relishes the chance to kick off the shoes and play the outdoor game, especially because of beach volleyball’s demand of every player being involved in every play.
“I love sand more than I love indoor because you do all of it,” Smoot said. “Indoor tournaments are great, but you’re indoors all day and you forget what the sun looks like.”
Smoot took on a former beach partner Sunday in Branson’s Delgado. The two paired together last season during an exhibition match at the AVP San Francisco Open at Piers 30 and 32. They only saw one match in the single-elimination format of the juniors’ exhibition tournament.
“It was close,” Smoot said. “We lost in three (sets) so that’s good.”
NDB varsity head coach Jen Agresti has long held a connection with the Foundry as a mainstay head coach for Encore. NDB freshman indoor coach Nicole Gonzalez is now coaching the Tigers’ beach team.
“The relationship with NDB is already there,” Krebs said. “So, it’s using certain channels to be able to grow the sport however we can.”