2010 AVP season is over

Raquel Caulkins and her partner Saralyn Smith moved thousands of miles away from home to be closer to the beach for the same reason.

They wanted to play beach volleyball and earn some money while performing on the sand.

Caulkins came from Brazil and Smith from Connecticut. Their dreams to turn pro started at different times, Smith eight years ago and Caulkins last year.

The careers of Smith and Caulkins on the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals Tour ended on the same day. Of all days, the duo learned on Friday the 13th that the AVP killed the tour due to financial troubles and its inability to find new investors.

Smith, who lives in Costa Mesa, said the AVP kept players informed of the possibility of the tour folding last month. When the news broke on Friday afternoon that the AVP closed its doors, she said she still felt stunned and sad.

"It doesn't make sense," Smith said of the cancellation of the season with five tournaments left on the schedule. "I hope this is just news for the remainder of the season. I'm really keeping my hopes up that next year there is a new tour, still with the AVP."

In the meantime, Smith plans to concentrate on her other career. The 32-year-old said she does consultant work for business development, an area of expertise that can possibly help whoever brings back the AVP or a new league.

Caulkins, who lives in Huntington Beach, expects to take a break from the sand before preparing for next season. That season might be in her home country.

That wasn't the 28-year-old's original plan, not after winning the AVP Rookie of the Year honor last season. When Caulkins earned less than $11,000 in her first season and less than $6,000 this season, she has to find ways to make a living and continue improving her game.

"Since I'm from Brazil, I'm lucky, unlike most of the players in the states, because if I want to play in Brazil, I can," Caulkins said. "Unless you get to play internationally, there are not a lot of opportunities.

"Everyone knows beach volleyball is not a sport you're going to make millions, unless you're Misty [May-Treanor]."

May-Treanor made public the news that the AVP cancelled the season before the AVP announced it.

From the Newport Harbor High graduate's Twitter account, it read, "If no one hasn't heard, the AVP season is over!!!!" May-Treanor ended her tweet by thanking everyone for supporting her.

Unlike May-Treanor, who competes internationally on the FIVB tour with teammate Nicole Branagh, Smith and Caulkins have to find new places to play.

Smith and Caulkins can thank May-Treanor and her former partner, Kerri Walsh, for turning Americans and the world on to women's beach volleyball. During a long stretch, May-Treanor and Walsh ruled the AVP, winning 112 straight times, and at the Olympic Games in Athens and Beijing, the duo brought home the gold each time.

Without May-Treanor and Walsh creating a buzz, Ed Ratledge, a professional men's player for 10 years, said the AVP, which began its U.S. tour in 1988, might not have lasted this long.

Ratledge, who lives in Huntington Beach, said a day before the AVP called it quits that Friday loomed. He pointed out the reasons.

"We're kind of the D-list of sports. We're the Kathy Griffin of sports," Ratledge said. "We wouldn't be if it weren't for mismanagement over the last 10 years of our tour. There was a time where the Shamrock [Capital Growth Fund II] group, which [was founded] by [the late Roy E.] Disney, was an investor group looking to buy our tour, and in my opinion we should've sold to them."

The deal three years ago never happened.

Now, the AVP's stock is valued at a couple of pennies a share.

This year was supposed to be the 50th anniversary of the Manhattan Beach Open, considered by AVP Commissioner Mike Dodd as the tour's crown jewel.

Caulkins and Smith are unsure what they will be doing on Aug. 19-22, the original date of the Manhattan Beach Open, since the AVP cut the season short after just seven tournaments.

Caulkins said she heard the California Beach Volleyball Assn. might run the Manhattan Beach Open. If the tournament does not go on, Smith knows what she will be doing that weekend.

"I'm going to be working a lot more in the office," Smith said. "If I mentioned it to the company that I'm working for that I'm going to be free a lot more, [the company] is going to be really happy."

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