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AVP.com: Collegians Experience the AVP

July 23, 2007

The following story by Lara Boyko ran on AVP.com on Friday, July 20, 2007.

Of all the AVP hopefuls who come out for the qualifier at each tour stop, only a handful ever make it to the show that is the main draw.After successfully surviving Thursday's qualifying, the blonde twin towers of 6-foot-2 Heather Hughes and 6-1 Emily Day -- a senior opposite hitter and a junior outside hitter on Loyola Marymount's volleyball team, respectively -- can now enjoy the bragging rights that come with having played the main draw competition.

"We thought we would take a chance and see what it was like to play here," said Hughes, who was playing with Day for the third time in a beach tournament. "I didn't even know how to sign up at first. Once we figured it out, I called my mom and asked her to sign us up."

Hughes and Day -- who as the 54th seed were the lowest seed to ever advance to the main draw since the AVP started tracking this statistic -- made it by upsetting the three qualifying teams: No. 11 Jennifer Bowman-Stephanie Chapek, No. 22 Kirstin Olsen-Vladia Vignato and No. 27 Raquel Beson-Michelle Piantadosi.

"This has been so exciting," said Day, who took yesterday and today off from her internship in Northrup Grumman's Vehicle Control Systems division to participate in the qualifier. "We just went out there to have fun because we knew we could do this."

While both Hughes and Day have the experience of playing on the beach in California Beach Volleyball Association tournaments, this was their first time playing together in an AVP Tour qualifier. The two came into Long Beach tour stop without having practiced together for the two-man game. Hughes and Day have practiced together four times a week this summer, but it indoors with the rest of the Lions.

"We were such the underdogs," said Day. "We didn't have a coach telling us what to do, and it was all up to us to figure things out. I think at one point we were getting advice from our friends and family who were out here today."

"We told all of our friends and family to stay home yesterday," said Hughes, who is spending the summer working at various sports camps held on the Loyola Marymount campus. "Last night, though, we were busy calling everyone that we could and asked them to miss work today so they could come watch us play today. There were even some people out here that I haven't seen since I graduated from high school."

By surviving the qualifier, Hughes and Day took to the main stadium to face the golden girls on the tour in their first match on Friday.

"Our goal was to win in the qualifiers," said Hughes, who wasn't disappointed to face Olympic gold medal winners Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. "After getting the jitters out, we just went out and tried to play with them. We got to play our idols and even took pictures with them afterwards."

After losing to May-Treanor and Walsh, 21-8, 21-8, in under 30 minutes, Hughes and Day experienced the waiting game on the AVP Tour to see who they would face in the contender's bracket. They ended up playing Jenny Kropp and Jenny Pavley, who had lost to Team Gorgeous -- Michelle More and Suzanne Stonebarger -- 21-9, 21-13.

"It was just so exciting," said Day. "I think we were smiling and laughing the whole time. During the games, we would watch what our opponents were doing and say to each other that we should learn how to do that."

Their time in the main draw was short-lived as they lost, 21-13, 21-15, in 35 minutes to Kropp-Pavley, but the memories from this experience will last longer for them than their two matches today.

"It is our dream to play out here when we grow up," said Hughes. "I expected to do this in a couple of years, not now. The competition was harder than expected, but then again, I got a taste of what it is like to play on the tour. I just wish we had given them a better run for their money."

"I just didn't want to lose my teeth out here today," Day said.

While other players on the tour will prepare for the Chicago and Manhattan Beach opens in the next few weeks, Day and Hughes are getting ready to join their LMU teammates for two-a-day workouts starting August 7.

"This has been a lot of fun and the best volleyball weekend ever," said Hughes.

To see this story (with photo) on AVP.com, click here and select "Collegians Experience the AVP" under News and Features.