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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Todd Jay Photography Lloy Ball's Team Pineapple played in the National Volleyball Association's inaugural event recently at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

  • Though he’s 45, Ball says he played well at the Las Vegas event. He’s planning to bring two National Volleyball Association events to his Angola academy in the spring.

Sunday, December 17, 2017 1:00 am

Still playing pro volleyball

Lloy Ball, 45, part of Vegas event, plans 2 in Angola

Josh Patterson | For The Journal Gazette

The 45-year-old's still got it. Although Lloy Ball's Team Pineapple didn't win the National Volleyball Association's inaugural event, a three-day showcase tournament played at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, enough sponsorship dollars were procured to keep the league afloat for its initial season.

“While I would have loved to win, it was a huge success for me and the people trying to put this together,” Ball said. “I played better than I thought I would. Even though we were training a little bit, I was still a little nervous.

“I played two matches the first day and one match the next, but I got some good genes from Arnie and Sandy Ball, and I feel really good. The ball came out really well, and I served really well.”

With the Ball Sports Academy set to open in Angola early next year, the facility will play host to two four-team round-robin events in late April and early May.

The eight-team league, split into two divisions of four, will play in three of these events before taking part in a championship tournament where the winning team takes home $50,000. Each team will play in two events inside its own division and one in the other division.

Currently, each player receives a per diem for food and hotel accommodations, and prize money will go to the winner of each regular-season event. While player compensation will remain modest at the outset, the ultimate hope is to set up a structured pay scale as the league grows.

“We want to keep the younger guys involved and willing to do it,” Ball said. “Most of the guys who played this weekend, they're mostly freshly out of college or running volleyball clubs across the country.”

That includes former IPFW standout Luis Bertran, who was named best passer at the NVA event in Las Vegas, as well as Empowered Sports Club CEO Will Robbins, as both played for Team Pineapple.

Conducting the NVA regular season in April and May is by design, according to Ball, as many overseas leagues have completed their seasons by then, or are well along in their playoffs. Teams can sign up to 20 players, with 14 available for an individual event.

By moving the regular season to the spring, teams will have the opportunity to supplement their rosters with some of the world's best players.

At the Las Vegas showcase, Team Pineapple suited up 6-foot-10 Marcus Nilsson of Sweden, who currently plays professionally in Russia.

“We'll keep our original roster with IPFW guys and myself, but seeing how we were a couple players short of really competing (in Las Vegas),” Ball saod. “I have no doubt that when we're moving these events to the spring, these foreign players will have no problem coming over and filling out rosters.

“I know I'm making some phone calls.”

The league has plans to stream every event online for a nominal fee. Over 40,000 fans tuned into Team Pineapple's quarterfinals match at the Las Vegas showcase, while the championship match drew over 100,000 viewers.

Ball explained that tickets to attend the round robin events at Ball Sports Academy won't be very expensive either.

“Watching volleyball live is always better,” Ball said. “Seeing 6-8 to 6-10 guys hitting the ball 100 mph is impressive.”