By Jennie Flinn
Two teenagers from Ponte Vedra are still smiling after dominating all opponents in a beach volleyball tournament at St. Petersburg Beach. Thor Gyulai-Summers, 14, and Cash Summers (unrelated), 13, competed together for the first time in the U14 boys group at the Sunshine State Outdoor Volleyball Association event on July 17.
The newly paired teenagers did not lose a single match during the tournament and won the championship 21-14. Challengers traveled from all over the East Coast, including South Carolina and as far away as Virginia.
“I was so excited to play with Thor after all of our hard work together and I’m proud of how we performed in the tournament,” Cash said.
Both boys are relatively new residents of Florida, having moved from California with their families.
How they came together as teammates is a big “small world” story. US Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Phil Dalhausser was recently in town for a volleyball clinic. He made the introduction, thinking that the newcomers from Florida would associate rather well.
What Dalhausser didn’t realize was that they had more than volleyball in common. The boys’ fathers have ties that date back nearly 15 years. They met and became friends while playing rugby on the beach in their native South Africa. Years later, they reunited while living in California, so they must have laughed when they found out from Dalhausser that they had both ended up in Florida just months apart. It seems natural that their sons get along too.
“It was great to compete and win with Cash, who I’m thrilled to have not only as a teammate but also as a friend in our new home state,” Thor said.
Without much time to prepare the boys for the tournament after their introduction, Thor’s father, Andor Gyulai, trained them almost daily. (Andor is no stranger to victory either, having won the 1998 NCAA volleyball championship at UCLA.)
“Having a coach like Andor helped take our game to the next level,” Cash said.
Cash and Thor both want to help the sport gain popularity locally while improving their own skills to every level possible. At just 14 years old, Thor was recently invited back to California at the end of July to train with the U17 USA National Beach Volleyball Training Group.
“I’m really excited to be training at a higher age and skill level, and having the opportunity to work towards my ultimate goal of competing for the United States in the future,” Thor said. .
Although he’s on track to make it big nationally, Thor’s current goal as a rising rookie is to help lead the Ponte Vedra High School boys’ volleyball team to success. this coming year.
Cash will be entering Pine Island Academy in eighth grade this fall. He plans to continue developing his skills through Andor’s St. Johns Volleyball Club. Everyone in the area is invited to try a class with the club, where they’ll be joined by Cash and Thor – and those big smiles – to see if they get hooked too.
For more information about St. Johns Volleyball Club, visit stjohnsvolleyball.com.
For more information on beach volleyball tournaments in Florida, visit ssova.com.