Former Olympian, WNBA vet join EVP beach volleyball tour

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RACINE — Lloy Ball has played volleyball in the Atlanta, Sydney, Australia, Athens, Greece, and Beijing, China, Olympic Games.


And now he’s played volleyball at North Beach.


Ball is the first U.S. male volleyball player to compete in four Olympic Games (1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008). And he is among the competitors this weekend for the Extreme Volleyball Professionals Beach Sports Festival — two-person men’s and women’s sand volleyball — which continues today at North Beach.


Ball and his partner, Will Robbins, moved into the semifinal match Saturday and won it, 21-18, 21-17, to move to today’s final match. Before that semifinal match, Ball talked about his top Olympic moments and current volleyball involvement.


Ball, now 42 and living in Fort Wayne, Ind., identified his first and last Olympic Games as providing the most-special moments. Atlanta was special partly because it was his first Olympic competition and was in his home country.


“There’s nothing like it,” he said.


Moreover, Ball said he was 24 then, and when he entered the Olympic stadium, 110,000 people were cheering. “It felt like they were cheering all for me,” he said. “Thinking about it now, I still get goose bumps.”


The 6-foot-8 Ball capped his Olympic career in China by helping his team win the Gold Medal, his other top Olympic experience. His parents, wife and son were able to watch as the medal was hung around his neck and see the tears in his eyes, Ball said.


He is joining the EVP Tour at four cities including Racine, with Ball acting the role of ambassador for the sport. “This helps spread volleyball a little bit,” he said. “We’re trying to build a following.”


Another noteworthy EVP player this weekend has been Kelly Schumacher, who played eight years of professional basketball in the WNBA before turning to pro beach volleyball.


“This is what’s fresh to me, challenging, and I love to be happy and on the beach,” Schumacher said before her semifinal match. She and her partner won that match, 21-19, 21-18 to move into today’s women’s final match.


About making the transfer from basketball to beach volleyball, the 6-foot-5 Schumacher said, “I have the size, athleticism and coordination from playing basketball to make it doable — but I wouldn’t say it’s easy.”


In basketball, Schumacher said, a player warms up once, plays for 2 hours, and that’s it. Beach volleyball, by contrast, stretches from morning to sundown with multiple warm-ups, wind and sun to contend with.


Between games, Schumacher said, she refuels with food and drink.


Then she added, “There’s not a lot of time (between games) “You’re always scouting who you might play next … you have to see what’s going on with them that day.”


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