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MANHATTAN BEACH, California (July 19, 2019) – The 2019 National Beach Tour Junior Championships continued Friday as the 12-and-under and 16U divisions played their second and final round of pool play. With 505 teams and over 1,000 players taking part in the tournament, there are thousands of stories of how players reached the national championship, how they overcame struggles, and how they celebrated the big occasions.
There are nine teams in the 12U Boys National Open Division, and two teams hail from the same club. Not any of the local clubs around Manhattan Beach, and not even one from the west coast; the pairs of Jack McClanahan and Cole Esparza (both from Ballwin, Missouri) and Luke Schall (Chesterfield, Missouri) and Thomas Thoman (Ofallon, Missouri) all play at Rockwood Thunder out of the Gateway Region.
McClanahan and Esparza started playing sand volleyball this year, shortly before the Boys Junior National Championships last month. “We played indoor at Nationals, and we played together,” said Esparza. “There’s a few sand volleyball courts [by my house] and we decided to practice there and get ready for nationals.”
McClanahan has enjoyed his new venture outdoors so far. “It’s really fun. You have to watch all the balls, you have to be ready for everything. And it’s a lot of fun to face challenging teams.”
Thoman and Schall, meanwhile, played in the 2018 NBTJC, and there’s one difference that’s immediately notable. “More competition out here [compared to last year],” according to Schall. “Last year there were only five teams, and now there’s nine. It’s tougher.”
Thoman agreed. “There’s a lot going on. They’re right on the beach, so they get a lot more practice than we do out in Missouri. We have to keep up with them.”
Keep up with them they have, Thoman and Schall have picked up three wins and played even more close matches. They’re directly in the age bracket’s quarterfinal round. McClanahan and Esparza will play in the bracket’s play-in match during their final day of the tournament.
A potential finals opponent for either Rockwood Thunder squad? Riley Massey and Landon Martin, also from the Gateway Region.