Angela Bensend has a goal.
“My goal as an individual is to, hopefully, one day be able to play in the Olympics,” said the former outside hitter on LSU’s volleyball team.
“Pretty small goal, you know?”
So every rally, every spike Bensend collects at this week’s $150,000 AVP New Orleans Open places her and teammate Geena Urango closer to another payday and, just as important, closer to earning the attention of a corporate sponsor, one of the keys to sustainability in the sport.
The AVP’s stop in New Orleans begins Friday morning at Laketown’s temporary complex in Kenner.
En route to her international competition plans, Bensend wants to earn a living playing professional beach volleyball in the United States. A comfortable living. Like Keri Walsh Jennings, half of the top women’s duo on the AVP circuit.
Walsh Jennings has earned more than $2.3 million during her career. Her sponsors include Speedo, Gatorade, Sirius, Halls, Wilson, Visa, and Bolle.
So far, Bensend has earned $8,450 dating back to the 2013 season. In 12 tournament appearances, she’s placed seventh — her best finish — twice. Bensend, a native of Plano, Texas, is trying to attract her first sponsor. A top sponsorship deal not only will cover volleyball gear and equipment, but also provide expenses for AVP’s tour stops which range from California (she resides in Hermosa Beach) and Seattle to Chicago, Florida and New York.
“It’s pretty difficult to get them (sponsors), but they definitely, really help out because in beach volleyball, there’s not millions and millions of dollars like other professional sports,” Bensend said. “So I’m working on it.”
Bensend is the lone competitor with local ties in the event’s main draw. Playing for the Lady Tigers (2007-10), she earned All-SEC first-team honors and helped LSU reach the NCAA Tournament every season.
Last season, she played in a career-high seven tournaments, often earning her way through a qualifier.
“When you go to the qualifier, you can’t lose. Once you lose, you’re done,” Bensend said.
She didn’t have to compete in Thursday’s qualifier for one of the four spots this week.
Small goals. One spike at a time.
No. 2 team sidelined
The men’s bracket lost its No. 2 team Thursday when the AVP announced Tri Bourne’s back injury. Last season, Bourne teamed with John Hyden to tie for third at the AVP St. Petersburg Open. Their withdrawal moves the duo of Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal to the No. 2 seed.
Jennifer Dalhausser, the wife of AVP start Phil — seeded second in the men’s main draw — advanced through the women’s qualifier with Tori Grafeman. Also advancing from the qualifier are Kerri Schuh (Milwaukee) and Jessica Stubinski (Houston), Janelle Allen (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Traci Morin (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Gretchen Duffner Hand (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Carol Welcher (El Cajon, Calif.)
Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.