This past Saturday, 4,000 “sports” fans flocked to East Beach, ditching hockey championships and NBA playoffs for a true – and perhaps even more entertaining – display of sportsmanship known as the annual All Sorority Volleyball Tournament (ASVT). The sea breeze, the deejays blaring music, and the intoxicated onlookers did not hinder the sorority girls, clad in matching bathing suits, from bringing their “A” games to the court.
Weeks of practice and strategic game planning did not go unnoticed as each of the 24 participating sororities – some coming from as far as UC Davis and USC – bumped, spiked, and blocked their way throughout the day’s competition.
ASVT is the proud philanthropic effort of UCSB’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity (ATO).
For the past six years, ATO has hosted this charity event, bringing together sororities, supportive fraternities, and eager fans alike from across California. Previously held in Isla Vista – the competition was then known as the Inter-Sorority Volleyball Tournament – the fraternity’s event became far too large and disruptive for the streets of the small college town, forcing them to relocate the event in 2007 to a more accommodating space downtown. Twiin Productions founders Jeremy and Josh Pemberton approached ATO three years ago with the idea of turning the event into a full-fledged volleyball tournament with a beach party twist. Now in its third year at East Beach, ASVT continues to draw bigger crowds and consequently raises more money for the Kidney Cancer Association (KCA), ATO’s charity of choice. In 2008, ASVT raised $30,000 for kidney cancer research; this year’s larger turnout promises an even greater amount of money raised.
Despite the drunken attendance and party-like atmosphere, the volleyball tournament remained the day’s main attraction. The organized, six-bracket tourney with its 24 sorority teams was the product of Darin Bernstein, a member of ATO and the tournament’s chair. “This is the biggest and the best year ever,” said Bernstein. “We [even] have teams coming from UCLA, Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo], and USC.” Yet, even with visiting sororities, the reigning champ of the tournament remained UCSB’s Pan-Hellenic sorority Alpha Chi Omega (AXO). UCSB senior Molly-Kate Lenahan commented on her team’s consecutive three-year win: “[It’s] definitely amazing to say that I was a part of [ASVT] for three years and that we ‘three-peated,'” said Lenahan. “It’s still always a surprise,” said the humble team captain. “We live right by the volleyball court so we would see the other sororities come practice. I’m really excited we won.” Winners received a trophy, gift certificates from participating sponsors, and, of course, a year’s worth of bragging rights.
Aside from being a charitable event and sporting competition, ASVT is really just a college beach party at its finest. “It’s the best of all possible worlds,” said UCSB student and sorority member Sara Guttas. Although this year’s ticket prices increased, ASVT delivered, fully equipping its six-acre space with a mobile deejay, an ice cream truck, food stands, and a beer garden. Coincidentally, ASVT landed on alumni weekend, attracting veteran participants. “This is probably one of the best days of my life,” said Benjamin Feldman, a returning UCSB grad. “[The best part about it is] seeing old friends, all the alumni, the bikinis, and the beer.” Feldman, along with the rest of the attendees, danced, mingled, and cheered on the sidelines while watching the ongoing volleyball games.
After years of practice, Twiin Productions and ATO seemed to have nailed it this year, as most everything went smoothly in the tournament’s third time around on East Beach. “This is my fourth year at ASVT,” said UCSB senior and sorority member Lydia Hu. “Obviously, the first year they did it downtown was a little messy, but they just keep improving it.” Annual additions and minor changes continue to turn ASVT into not just any ordinary beach gathering, but a well-developed production. “We have bands, a Miss ASVT Pageant, and even more sponsors,” said Bernstein. On top of the five-set music lineup, ASVT also hosted its first Miss ASVT Pageant. Prelims required willing competitors to submit a one-page application giving ATO’s judges a sense of what the participants were like. According to ATO member and judge Will Tanem, the finalists were determined based on several areas including academics, community service, morals, and intelligence. After a series of questions were asked of the finalists on stage, UCSB sophomore Erica Kwiatkowski was crowned the first Miss ASVT.
ASVT’s immense success as a charity event is due in large part to the event’s extensive popularity and increasing participation; however, the most crucial factor contributing to one of the Greek system’s most successful charity events is the precise planning on the parts of ATO and Twiin Productions. “It’s an organized way to have fun. There’s a lot of infrastructure, a lot of support, and a lot of management that allows us to run events like this,” said Pemberton, whose company also hosts the annual West Beach Festival. From running buses between East Beach and Isla Vista to keeping yards of distance between the underage and the beer garden, the details of the event were thoughtfully and thoroughly planned out. “The City of Santa Barbara really supports ASVT. We’re good neighbors – we tell everyone in the community about the event, we send out notification letters. There’s really [no one] that doesn’t support the event,” said Pemberton.