SoCal beach volleyball players are the stars of the AVP Junior Nationals

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They were from Texas. They were from Florida. They came from North Carolina and Arizona, even Montana.

The AVP Junior Nationals returned to Hermosa Beach last week, and on paper it seemed like a chance for top homegrown talent to strut their stuff on the familiar Southern California sands.

The list of candidates, however, was full of foreign talent. Of 124 participants in the 18U women’s field, less than 15 were pairs from the Los Angeles area. Beach volleyball is prevalent in Southern California, said star and Cypress High participant Zoey Henson, but training is stricter in other areas.

“These out-of-state girls, they’re grinders,” Henson said.

Nonetheless, a few local pairs did their best to steal the show over the weekend.

“California beach volleyball,” said Ingrid Timon-Johnson of Marymount High, “is better than any other state.”

Timon-Johnson and others came close to burying that flag in the sand on Sunday, one of two local pairs to advance to the semifinals in the 18U women’s field. Manhattan Beach’s Erin Inskeep Mira Costa and Anaheim Esperanza’s Clara Stowell, seeded 12th at the start of the tournament, crushed tough competition to advance to the final before losing 2-1 (21-15, 19- 21, 15-10) against a tandem of 118th-seeded Flower Mound, Texas.

Inskeep and Stowell hadn’t been the most frequent partners in AVP events last year, but hummed along at perfect pace on Sunday, often using the versatile Inskeep as a setter and the larger Stowell as an emphatic finisher. In the quarterfinals, they knocked out Florida/Pennsylvania seed pair Alexis Durish and Sarah Wood, then beat Inskeep’s former classmate Mira Costa and No. 2-seeded Jenna Colligan in the semis. final.

Inskeep and Stowell commit to the beach – Inskeep to Cal Poly, Stowell to Stanford. Keep an eye out for this trend: talented local indoor players making a full pivot to the beach game, which offers a new challenge and less attrition.

“I love how the sport is growing very quickly,” Stowell said.

Timon-Johnson and partner Finley Rollins, who just graduated from Torrance Bishop Montgomery, came in 36th but went on an undefeated run through the first two days of qualifying to move to the top seed for the leading gold slice, Timon-Johnson said.

“Honestly, I’m surprised to have come this far,” Timon-Johnson said after a round of 16 win. She and Rollins tied for fifth.

Kelly Belardi, a key part of Marymount’s state championship indoor team last fall, tied for ninth with Macey Butler (Texas). Alexandra Adishian (Studio City Harvard-Westlake) and Emma Donley (Menlo) were also tied for ninth place.

Twins Tawny and Skylar Ensign of Santa Ana Mater Dei, who operate with the Vulcan mind-meld genre on the beach reserved for sisters who have spent their entire lives together, won the second-tier silver slice.

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