Though much sadness is associated with the recent passing of Beach Volleyball Silver Medalist and AVP Champion Mike Whitmarsh, I can remember a wonderful moment that will be forever embedded in my memory.
It was the 2002 AVP Best of the Beach Tournament in Las Vegas. The veteran team of Mike Whitmarsh and Canyon Ceman ousted eventual 2008 Gold Medalist Todd Rogers and Sean Scott and reached the semi finals where they faced Lee LeGrande and Mike Lambert.
The match was a battle of great defense by Ceman and monster blocks by Lambo (Lambert) and Whitty (Whitmarsh). Ceman and Whitty won the first set and LeGrande /Lambo battled back to win the second. In the third deciding set at 14-12 match point for Canyon/Whitmarsh, Lambo decided to test Whitty’s blocking abilities at the net.
The serve went to Lambo, whose fiery arm had just left the U.S. National Team. LeGrande set his partner a buttery 50/50 set and Lambo unleashed on the ball (which probably sent his shoulder straight to the operating table). The ball went straight into the block of the Great Wall of Whit and was blocked so hard that it bounced straight down off the sand and over the bleachers. It was astounding, unbelievable and the best block I had ever seen in my life, match point, game over. All the excitement of the win overshadowed the block, but it was something that I will never forget.
There are a lot of other great things about Mike Whitmarsh that he will always be remembered for, his quick study of the game and rise to greatness, his Olympic Silver Medal in Atlanta in 1996, his 28 tournament victories, the $1.6 million career earnings, his transitional setting, the list goes on and on. But on that hot desert night in Vegas I witnessed a great moment in volleyball and reminiscing the event puts a smile on my face and reminds me of what a great volleyball player and human being Mike Whitmarsh for which he will be immortalized.
February 23, 2009
By Kirstin Olsen