ST. PETERSBURG — Raquel Ferreira’s job takes her all over the world.
This week, it brought her home.
Ferreira, a professional beach volleyball player, gets to sleep at home this weekend as the Association of Volleyball Professionals tour makes a stop at St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Park.
Ferreira, a Brazil native, calls St. Petersburg her primary home, though she also spends extended periods of time each year playing on pro tours in Sweden and Brazil. When not playing, Ferreira spends her time coaching volleyball, both indoor and beach.
“This is the first time that I’ve played a beach tournament event in my life and gotten to stay at home,” Ferreira said. “It’s amazing. … I’m counting on, finally, for the first time, having people cheer for me and not against me.”
This is also the “home tournament” for Fort Myers native Brooke Sweat. Though she now lives in California, Sweat said this is the only tournament where her family gets to watch her play.
Beach volleyball is always one of the most popular events during the Summer Olympics. During London 2012, NBC saved its beach volleyball broadcasts for the American primetime show, rather than airing it live because of its intense following.
Part of the AVP’s mission is to replicate that following for events outside the Olympics.
“It has a lot of potential, but for some reason, it had a lot of ups and downs in the past. They’re trying to do it right this time,” Ferreira said.
This weekend’s event features some of the most recognizable names in beach volleyball. Phil Dalhausser (Olympic gold in Beijing) will compete on the men’s side, while Kerri Walsh Jennings (three-time Olympic gold medalist,) Jen Kessy (Olympic silver in London) and April Ross (Olympic silver in London) compete on the women’s side.
In addition to being close to home, Ferreira said the waterfront Vinoy Park setting for this tournament is uniquely picturesque for the AVP tour.
“This is the most beautiful site I’ll have the chance to play on,” she said. “I can say that for sure, and I think a lot of players will back me up on that.”