Auto racing has tried it. Football has been doing it on Monday for years. Now it's volleyball's turn to experiment with playing under the lights.
The Tempe Open, the second stop on the Association of Volleyball Players tour begins today at Tempe Beach Park.
With temperatures approaching triple digits during the day, the Saturday night matches will be a welcome change of pace.
“I guess I won’t wear my dark sunglasses,” said Sean Rosenthal, who teamed with new partner Jake Gibb for a season opening win at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a month ago. “But it should be a lot of fun.”
Reigning AVP most valuable player Gibb hopes to get to Sunday's afternoon final but said numerous partner changes in the offseason have everyone guessing who will be the team to beat.
“There will be maybe six or eight teams that should be better than everyone else. We just want to be one of them,” Gibb said from his home in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
“Something like nine of 10 of the top teams from a year ago switched but that’s just the way volleyball is — it’s cutthroat,” said Rosenthal, a 25-year-old tour veteran. “This year there are a lot of teams gearing up for the (2008 Beijing) Olympics and trying to see if they mesh together.”
Gibb has a score to settle. Despite his MVP season, partner Stein Metzger — with whom he won the Tempe stop last year — switched partners this year. Gibb and Rosenthal beat Metzger and Mike Lambert in Florida, so a rivalry may be brewing.
The AVP stop in Tempe is in its fourth year and could witness the continued dominance of 2004 Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
The popular team won 10 of 13 events in 2005 and was runner-up in the other three. They’ve won all three Tempe tournaments and have more than double the victories (25) than the second-place team (12). But does that mean the rest of field simply competes for second place?
“I think we’re all trying to win, and they’ve shown some vulnerabilities,” 10-year veteran Nancy Mason said. “There are ways to beat them.”