Local teens win Florida volleyball tournament

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Two Ponte Vedra teens are still smiling after dominating all opponents faced during a beach volleyball tournament in St. Petersburg Beach. Thor Gyulai-Summers, age 14, and Cash Summers (unrelated), age 13, competed together for the first time in the U14 boys group during the Sunshine State Outdoor Volleyball Association’s event on July 17.

The newly paired teens did not lose a single game during the tournament and won the championship 21-14. Challengers traveled from all over the East Coast, including South Carolina and as far away as Virginia.

“I was so excited to play with Thor after all our hard work together and am proud of how we played in the tournament,” Cash said.

Both boys are fairly new residents of Florida, having moved from California with their families.

How they got together as teammates is a great "small world" story. Phil Dalhausser, a U.S. Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist, was recently in town for a volleyball clinic. He made the introduction, thinking the Florida newcomers would pair up pretty well.

What Dalhausser didn’t realize was they have more than volleyball in common. The boys’ fathers have ties that go back almost 15 years ago. They met and became friends while playing rugby on the beach in their native country of South Africa. Years later, they met up again while living in California, so they had to laugh when they found out through Dalhausser that they’d both ended up in Florida a few months apart. It seems natural that their sons would hit it off too.

"It was great to compete and win with Cash, who I’m excited to have not only as a teammate but as a friend in our new home state,” Thor said.

Without much time to prepare the boys for the tournament after their introduction, Thor’s father, Andor Gyulai, coached them on an almost-daily basis. (Andor is no stranger to winning either, having won the 1998 NCAA Volleyball Championship at UCLA.)

“Having a coach like Andor helped take our game to the next level,” Cash said.

Cash and Thor both want to help the sport grow in popularity locally while enhancing their own skills on all levels possible. At only 14, Thor was recently invited to head back to California at the end of July to train with the U17 USA National Beach Volleyball Training Group.

“I am really excited to train at a higher age and skill level, and for the opportunity to work toward my ultimate goal of competing for the U.S. in the future,” Thor said.

Even though he's on track to be a national standout, Thor’s current goal as a rising freshman is to help lead the Ponte Vedra High School boys volleyball team to success this coming year.

Cash will be entering Pine Island Academy as an eighth grader this fall. He’s planning to continue his skill development through Andor’s St. Johns Volleyball Club. Everyone in the area is invited to try a class with the club, where they’ll be joined by Cash and Thor — and those big smiles — to see if they also get hooked.

For more information on St. Johns Volleyball Club, go to stjohnsvolleyball.com.

For more information on Florida’s beach volleyball tournaments, go to ssova.com.

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