Cornwall Vikings have been having fun in the sun - and in big numbers

Layla McDonell and others listen to instructions at the "Spikes on the Beach'' volleyball camp at L'Heritage. Photo on Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Cornwall, Ont. Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network Todd Hambleton / Todd Hambleton/Standard-Freeholder

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It’s been a very good week in the sun for Spikes on the Beach.

But Thursday was a slightly different story, with storm clouds threatening in the morning, opening up the possibility of going indoors later on.

“We always reserve the gym (at Ecole Secondaire L’Heritage) for days when we have to go inside,” said Cornwall Vikings Volleyball Club founder and coach Allison Haley on Thursday, at the beach volleyball camp that’s been offered for several summers.

Each year, the numbers grow. And for the two weeks the program is being offered this summer, 60 kids have participated, including many of them last week, when the extreme heat on a couple of occasions had the sand sizzling and forced a move indoors.

Outdoors, it’s a two-court setup on sand close to the shores of the St. Lawrence River in Cornwall’s east end, the focus on physical literacy, movement and skill execution, and for players from grades 6-10.

Like all versions of the sport, beach volleyball is enjoying an upswing in popularity locally.

Cornwall Vikings Volleyball Club founder and coach Allison Haley holds court at the “Spikes on the Beach” volleyball camp at L’Heritage. Photo on Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Cornwall, Ont. Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network Todd Hambleton / Todd Hambleton/Standard-Freeholder

“Every year our numbers are going up,” Haley said. “Our indoor programs in the spring were packed. . . volleyball is big, there are so many teams participating in the province.”

Haley said that in the last couple of years, travelling level play was extended to younger kids, with a girls 11 U division added, and boys play now beginning at 12 U.

“Basically the teams play in four tournaments, and some kids will play up (a level) to play in additional tournaments,” Haley said.

When it comes to summer action on the sand, that’s fairly new for the Vikings. It was in 2017 when the club was chosen as one of 12 from across the province to offer the Ontario Volleyball Association’s pilot Spikes on the Beach program, with a minimum of 25 participants required.

It went quite well in Cornwall despite some cool and damp weather, and the program returned in 2018, this time as a fult-tilt OVA program, with 30 kids signed up for a first week of activities, and another 20 for a second week of play.

There are Haleys everywhere on the court. Allison’s husband Dave is a Vikings co-founder and coach, and daughter Olivia is one of the teenage assistant coaches hired to help keep things running smoothly.

In between drills on Thursday morning, Allison Haley spoke about the Vikings’ program effect on high school volleyball in the region.

“Coaches are constantly coming up to me and talking about the improved calibre,” she said. “I see it as a high school (volleyball) referee too. . . we’re really happy with how (volleyball and the Vikings) have developed. Every OVA program is offered in Cornwall.”

There’s another big gathering this week, at the Cornwall Vikings Volleyball Club “Spikes on the Beach” program, being held on the sand courts at L’Heritage. Photo on Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Cornwall, Ont. Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network Todd Hambleton / Todd Hambleton/Standard-Freeholder

The Vikings club program has skills development, competitive volleyball teams and recreational league play for Cornwall and SDG, and it’s had its Spikes indoor program for beginners in the sport since 2010, concentrating on skills and court basics.

Vikings competitive level teams have been on the courts for six years and on the OVA tournament circuit, and there’s house league play that assists kids in getting better prepared for participating at the high school level.

The Vikings program expanded to the great outdoors in recent years as beach volleyball became more popular world-wide, and the OVA has been aggressively promoting the efforts at the local level in the province.

Travelling team play for 2019-20 isn’t too far off. Tryout dates will be posted in early August; the actual tryouts gets underway in September, with tournament season beginning in November and continuing into late April.

More information on the Vikings club and its programs is available at www.cornwallvikingsvolleyball.com.

thambleton@postmedia.com

twitter.com/FreeholderTodd

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