Palmetto Volleyball's Charleston Kick-off this weekend is the first tournament of the season for USA Volleyball's Palmetto Region, encompassing North and South Carolina.
When the players from south of the Broad take the court this morning at the Charleston Convention Center, they'll be doing it as one united club.
The Lowcountry Volleyball Club, run by Katie Cox, and the Hilton Head Blacktips, run by Genia Edelman, officially combined at a Sept. 23 meeting to form the Lowcountry Blacktips.
"It was just going to be hard to have a competitive program being split," said Cox, the assistant coach at Bluffton High School. "With the boys and the outdoors programs expanding, we just felt it was better if we combined."
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Edelman, whose daughter Hannah is a standout for Hilton Head Island High, moved here from Atlanta four years ago. Her daughter played for the Lowcountry Volleyball Club even after she formed the Hilton Head club.
"My goal was to grow the program," Edelman said, "and we've really grown the program."
The result of the merger was the Lowcountry Blacktips, taking the Lowcountry name from one club and the Blacktips from the other.
Bluffton head coach Al Stern founded the Lowcountry Volleyball Club in 1996. He stepped down as a coach and director in recent years when the time away from home got to be too much, but he has stayed involved as the organization's treasurer.
"We were much bigger, but competing for players in as small a market as we are, it didn't make much sense. Combining better served the players."
Stern says the club now will field the most girls teams since it split with the Savannah club in 2003.
The Blacktips now have 13 teams from U12 to U18, including two boys teams (U12 and U18). Some are club teams, some are power teams (a little better) and two are national teams (U-14, U-17).
The Blacktips will field teams in all age divisions in Charleston, though the U18 boys will not compete -- there's no bracket for them. Beaufort Volleyball Club will compete, as well.
USA Volleyball also will host sessions for coaches and parents on college recruiting, coaches clinics and volleyball clinics.
Pool play starts at 8 a.m. today and continues all day Saturday. The playoffs run all day Sunday.
Edelman, now the Palmetto Region director for outdoor volleyball, encompassing beach and grass tournaments for the entire state of South Carolina, says she wants to bring West Coast volleyball to the East Coast.
"It's such a growing sport," Edelman said, "It's the No. 3 sport for women. It's incredible the growth we've had. It's a great sport because you can't win with one great player. You've got to have a whole team."
All day, Saturday-Sunday
Charleston Convention Center
Tickets: $7 per day, $10 for the weekend