SANDY — When most Utahns think of volleyball, one of the last images that comes to mind is probably athletic, competitive men.

"Most people think, 'Oh that's a girls sport,'" said Ronald Tye, an assistant coach for Twin Peaks' 17 team. "We get that comment a lot."

Twin Peaks is one of about a half dozen Utah boys volleyball teams that will participate in the 2008 USA Junior Olympic Championship. The tournament begins today at the South Towne Exposition Center and will feature 385 teams from around the world. The tournaments, which feature club and open divisions in age groups from 12 to 18 years old, are expected to attract 35,000 visitors and pump about $30 million into the local economy.

"We'd love to host one of these (tournaments) every year," said Tari Anderson, community director for the American Volleyball Association. "It promotes the sport of volleyball and features some great athletes. We're very excited to have the tournament here."

Also excited are some of the Utah club teams that often have trouble even attracting enough players to fill a roster. While Twin Peaks has been around for more than 15 years, other boys clubs are just getting started.

Bree Riet will coach the IMVBC 16s team and said they've tried to organize competitive boys teams before, but haven't always been successful.

"We've tried, but the boys just don't want to play volleyball," said Riet, whose team will begin play Thursday. "In Utah it's totally a girls' sport. There are great teams from around the world and the country, but even in the U.S. it's not as big."

She thinks some of that is because boys hope to earn athletic scholarships and there are very few opportunities for scholarships in boys volleyball.

"It was really difficult to get an eight man roster," she said. "It's easy to get them to try out, but very hard to get them to commit. They are involved in too many other things, baseball, soccer even football."

Some of the teams featured in this week's tournament, however, are from places like Puerto Rico where volleyball is popular.

Organizers and volleyball aficionados are hoping the tournament will expose more boys to the possibilities of competitive volleyball, while others hope the state benefits from exposing so many people to Utah.

"An event of this magnitude doesn't roll around all too often, so we're excited to welcome all the participants and their family members to Sandy," said Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan. "This event is a great example of how we can generate significant economic impact for our local businesses through hosting sports events."

And ultimately, those involved say spectators and players alike will enjoy some of the most exciting volleyball matches around.

"We are thrilled to be hosting another USAV Championship event," said Kim Norman, Executive Director of Intermountain Volleyball Association. "We hope they take home great memories of the Championships and of the State of Utah."


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