When the 1972 U.S. Volleyball Association's national championships were held in Salt Lake City, things worked so well it was considered a watermark year for one of the oldest tournaments in amateur sports.
Now, as the tournament returns to Salt Lake City June 13-18 at the University of Utah Huntsman Center and the courts at East High, local organizers hope it can give something back to them.The Utah-Idaho region is the smallest in card-carrying USVBA membership of all the 30 regions, and Harold Buckner, who was director of the 1972 nationals and who will be the event coordinator for the sponsoring Utah Sports Foundation this time, says, "That's one of the reasons we're doing this tournament."
Buckner, also USVBA commissioner for the Inter-mountain Region, hopes the scope of the tourney will attract serious young players for junior programs and re-interest others.
The Utah Sports Foundation, which is also sponsoring the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in Salt Lake City in August, is set up to improve all of Utah's amateur sports and has some of the same ambitions as Buckner.
Some 165-200 teams will compete in the predominantly adult-age USVBA tournament in seven divisions, including men's and women's open, women's club, senior men's and women's, men's masters and men's golden masters.
The level of competition will be like having all-star collegiate teams, says Buckner, and, if an all-star team were picked out of the open division, it could challenge the U.S. Olympic team, although Olympians would probably win because of experience and teamwork.
In most years, Olympic team members participate, but this is an Olympic year, so the USVBA prefers to keep the Olympians together.
Many former Olympians are expected to play, including 1984 men's team co-captains Paul Sunderland and Chris Marlowe. Three 1984 women's team members are also expected Carolyn Becker, Julie Vollersteen and Sue Woodstra as is California beach doubles champion Kathy Gregory.
Teams must have qualified by winning their region or by being selected as an at-large competitor.
Utah will probably be represented by teams in all categories and should field a pretty good women's team made up of former players from Brigham Young University, University of Utah and Utah State University. The Aggies and Cougars have been national college powers during the 1980s. Former USU all-America and coach Annette Cottle is expected to play for the Utah senior women's team, Buckner said.
In the past, whole college teams have participated as units in the tournament, but a new NCAA rule prohibits that by limiting the number of weeks those teams can remain together.
The men's tournament will be played for the 59th year, the senior men's will be played for the 56th time, and the women's open will celebrate its 40th year.
In addition to the tournament, which is expected to bring some 4,000 visitors to Utah for a week, there will be a Dionne Warwick concert at the Huntsman Center and the National Volleyball Coaches' Symposium.
Warwick is national chairperson for Volleyball America and will be in concert June 17.
Local coaches may participate in all levels of the symposium scholastic, varsity and master. Bill Neville, USVBA national technical director and the former coach of the Salt Lake Stingers of the International Volleyball Association professional team, and 1984 men's Olympic coach Doug Beal will head the staff.