Lanikai Open Packs Volleyball Into Sweet One-Day Tourney

Saturday’s fourth annual Lanikai Open has added yet another feature to what has quickly grown into one of Hawaii’s signature volleyball events.

“We’re adding a youth side this year,” said Ed Chun, who founded the Open and serves as tournament director. “The Club season and the PAL season are really big here in youth volleyball – they have a good following – so it made sense to start this. The tournament is moving in the direction we had envisioned.”

Currently the largest grass volleyball tournament in Hawaii, the Lanikai Open began in 2010 with 22 teams. A year later, it expanded to 35 teams, and more than 40 played in it last July. Chun expects 60 teams to take part this Saturday. One new twist will see the tournament play out in one day. Operated in conjunction with Lanikai Athletic Club, the Open was a two-day event in the past.

Chun, who also is Kalaheo head boys volleyball coach, used to play in it himself, but no longer can fit that in with the growth of the tournament.

“I tried playing and running it the first year, and it was stressful,” laughed Chun, who also coaches the Le Jardin Academy girls team in the fall.

Multiple factors have contributed to the Lanikai Open’s surging popularity. The backdrop at Lanikai Park is a huge selling point, in addition to the tournament’s fan-friendly mentality. Above all, it attracts a high level of talent, according to its founder. “The quality of the players and the quality of the event help (are high),” Chun said. “We also have a lot of giveaways (for spectators).

“The fans definitely receive a treat with the big-name players from Hawaii. We also had a team from Switzerland last year. It is one of the only tournaments where you’ll see that many star athletes and college athletes. The UH guys also are usually out there participating.”

Among the draws for participants is that they may play as many as 10 matches during the event.

Former Pepperdine standout Josh Taylor was Most Valuable Player last year. Notables Taylor Crabb (Long Beach State) and Brad Lawson (Stanford) also are alumni.

Fee is $200 per adult team and $150 per youth team with rosters of up to six players. The divisions offered include four in the youth category: 12-and-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under and 18-and-under. Adult divisions include an AA-A category and a B-Masters category.

Lanikai Athletic Club also is partnering with Le Jardin to run the inaugural Koolau Classic Championships grass volleyball tournament July 27, to be played on grass with a 4-on-4 format. For more information, call 630-4565.