Ventura Gains Franchise in New Pro League : Volleyball: At least six women's teams are expected to start indoor schedule in February.

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A women's professional indoor volleyball league is expected to open play in six cities, including Ventura, early next year.

The Women's Western Volleyball League is scheduled to commence play in late February with franchises around the state in Ventura, San Diego, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and Salinas, said Ralph Christ, founder and director of operations.

Additional teams in Stockton, Visalia, Calif., and Las Vegas also are being considered for the first season.

The teams will play a 24-match schedule through April, with the top four advancing to playoffs.

"We're going to start small and build," said Christ, who has worked as a publicist for several professional soccer teams, including the Los Angeles Lazers, and also has served as athletic director and baseball coach at Villanova Prep. "Right now, volleyball is one of the hottest sports going."

Christ said he hopes the league, which is based in Ojai, eventually will serve as a complement to the outdoor beach volleyball season, which begins in late spring. In the indoor league, each team will carry eight players on the roster, with athletes earning between $50 and $100 per match. Franchises are expected to spend $35,000 to $50,000 the first season.

"The mistake that a lot of other professional leagues have made is in spending too much for players' salaries and trying to grow too fast," Christ said. "We are going to take our time and do things right."

Tom Marcus, who owns a computer firm in Ventura, is the owner of the Ventura Slammers franchise. Marcus, a self-described sports fanatic, purchased the franchise for $1,000.

Marcus, who will serve as coach, said he is working out details to secure a playing site.

Although two previous women's professional volleyball leagues have failed, Christ is upbeat.

"If you tell me something isn't going to work, I'll kill myself trying to make it work," Christ said. "We plan on being around for a long, long time."

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