Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the unofficial kickoff to the club volleyball season.
Triangle Volleyball Club’s Sherry Fadool said it’s the first day college representatives can scout teams, and the season typically starts with clubs playing in a tournament.
Before last weekend, volleyball clubs in the Triangle didn’t have an MLK weekend event to call their own.
Triangle Volleyball Club organized the first annual City of Oaks Challenge at the Raleigh Convention Center. The youth volleyball tournament ran from Saturday and ended Monday afternoon.
“North Carolina volleyball just continues to keep growing,” said Fadool, the event’s coordinator. “As North Carolina volleyball has grown, we have about 600 junior girls’ teams. There’s not a MLK event in North Carolina, so we have a great partnership with the City of Raleigh and we got talking to them, and this was a great weekend for them, too.”
Fadool said the state’s youth clubs have typically traveled to tournaments in Richmond, Va., around this time of year.
With the setup at the convention center, the event was able to accommodate 200 teams on 20 courts.
There were 144 teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia that participated in the inaugural City of Oaks Challenge.
“It’s nice to have our first home tournament here, instead of having to travel,” said Emily Whitsett, one of the coaches of the Triangle 15 Black club. “The girls feel a little more comfortable. It’s cool how everyone from around here came here, and it’s good to host it.”
Triangle 15 won a tournament title in its age division.
“We had home-court advantage, so we were used to the convention center and everything; other teams were traveling,” said Triangle 15 outside hitter Cera Powell. “We had a jump on what it was going to be like.”
Fadool said Triangle Volleyball Club, a nonprofit organization for youth players age 12 to 18, had made good connections with local volleyball groups, which ensured interest and participation.
Before the event, which sold for $10 per day or $20 for a three-day pass, organizers estimated the event would have an economic impact of $700,000.
“I know we sold out most of the downtown hotel rooms and many others,” Fadool said. “The volleyball families are great spectators and fans. They’re really active. They draw a large crowd. There’s 10 players per team, on average, so that brings thousands of people to the restaurants in the area. The feedback we’ve gotten is that they love Raleigh and there’s so much around here in walking distance.
“We’re really pleased with where we are. We expect to have 200 teams next year.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan