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Detroit — More than 25,000 volleyball players descended on Metro Detroit for the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships held at Cobo Center.

The 10-day event features more than 1,270 volleyball teams from around the country playing 5,900 matches on 75 courts, coating the full expanse of the main floor of the convention center: a sea of volleyball.

Bringing the championships to Detroit was Kris Smith, the director of the Detroit Sports Commission. 

"This is a premiere sports city," Smith said. "We can accommodate events. What better way to showcase the story of the community than to bring in a massive event?"

Smith estimates that, including family and team support staff, the championships will draw more than 45,000 people to Cobo.  

"There was a desire for volleyball in the Detroit area, and we were able to build our case upon that," Smith said. "Even if you're just a passive sports enthusiast, you can't come in here and not enjoy this."

Smith, who started the process of luring the championships to Detroit in October 2012, mentioned community support has been essential in pulling the event off, and the Detroit Sports Commission hosted a much smaller event, the USA Volleyball Open National Championships in 2015 as proof-of-concept.

USA Volleyball collegiate teams are using Wayne State facilities for training, and more than 350 local high school and college volleyball teams helped with set-up in exchange for a donation to their programs from the Detroit Sports Commission. 

But the construction of 75 volleyball courts in Cobo required more than just nets.

Sport Court, a playing surface company, supplied and installed a synthetic wood playing surface that is much more forgiving than the regular concrete floor, and mimics the surface of a hardwood high school or college gymnasium, with special designs and colors for the championship courts.

David Cordone, whose daughter, Gabby, plays for the Beach City Volleyball Club from Redondo Beach, Calif., said Detroit could use more hotel rooms as the Cordones had to stay in Farmington due to all the Detroit hotels being booked, but that overall the city has been "really cool."

"There are a lot of trees," Gabby added, mentioning that there aren't many trees in Redondo Beach.

"Detroit's been fun," said Tanya Martin, mother of Jaydia Martin of the Multnomah Athletic Club team in Portland, Ore. "We went to the carnival on Sunday on the waterfront, and that was pretty cool. The architecture is pretty awesome." 

 

Despite all the good vibes surrounding the championships, not everything has been positive. A Texas player's father and stepmother were killed on Sunday, on their way to the tournament, when their plane crashed near Detroit City Airport.

USA Volleyball sent its condolences to the player, her family and her friends, while the Detroit Sports Commission had no comment on the situation out of respect to the family.

There will be a moment of silence to honor the family before the start of play on Wednesday.

The USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships got underway on Monday and wraps up on July 4.

USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships

Who: More than 1,270 girls club volleyball teams (11-and-under to 17-and-under) from across the United States; more than 25,000 players

When: Started Monday, through July 4

Where: Cobo Center, Detroit

Tickets: Available at the door. One-day passes $10 and up. Tournament passes $35 and up.

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