Ball change puts new spin on beach World Tour circuit

OTTAWA – One of the topics of discussion amongst the players on the beach volleyball World Tour circuit is the new Mikasa ball, the VLS 300, which will be used starting this season and the all the way up to the 2012 Olympics.

The ball was introduced at the Sanya Open in China last November. Like their international counterparts, Canadian players have been working hard adjusting to the new ball in their off-season training. 

Annie Martin of Sherbrooke, Que., and Marie-Andrée Lessard of Ville LaSalle, Que., were among the players to test the ball in competition last season on the World Tour.

“Our initial reaction in competition was the ball felt a bit heavier and wasn’t affected as much by the elements, especially the wind,” said Lessard. “On contact such as services and defence you have to give it a bit stronger punch.”

Jesse Lelliott of Kelowna, B.C., and his partner Ben Saxton of Calgary will play their first match with the new ball next week at the season-opening stop on the World Tour circuit in Brasilia, Brazil

“We’ve been practicing with it,” said Lelliott, who placed second last week with partner Ben Saxton at a stop on the NORCECA (North and Central America) beach volleyball circuit. “It’s a change, the ball is different. 

“You need to contact it just perfectly or it will go wildly out of control. So it’s a lot more difficult to keep the jump serves in the court. But you can also serve it harder, so the players that a strong serving technique will probably be able to capitalize on that.”

With total prize money of $7.02 million, the 2010 SWATCH FIVB World Tour will include 16 women’s events and 14 men’s tournaments including Grand Slams offering $600,000 prize money and bonus pool in Russia, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Poland and a new Grand Slam in Rome, Italy – the venue for the 2011 SWATCH FIVB World Championships.