By Mark L. Fuerst
Special to Brooklyn Eagle
The Eastern Athletic Club crowned a pair of new champions last month in the annual King/Queen of the Court Tournament in Brooklyn Heights.
The title of King of the Court now belongs to Andrew J. Cassius, the youngest King ever at age 22. Iris Gong won the Queen of the Court.
Twelve men and five women, all Open-level competitors, battled it out for top honors on Feb. 26, playing with and against one another during round-robin play at the EAC.
The players tallied up to 15 points per game for a total of 16 games for the men and 10 games for the women. The invitation-only event was sponsored by Wallyball International Inc. (WII), American Wallyball Association (AWA) and the EAC.
Andrew is the son of EAC wallyball coach George L. Cassius, and grew up watching and peppering with the World Champion wallyball players at the EAC. He began playing wallyball with his former idols in his early teens.
“It was intimidating playing with guys who taught me how to play the game,” admitted Andrew, who holds the career assists record for the varsity volleyball team at SUNY-New Paltz. “I’ve looked up to these guys for years, so it was exciting to win this event.”
Andrew’s proud father, George, commented: “Andrew set and played an incredible defensive game, and he deserved to win. It couldn’t have been a bigger event for me and my wife Rose (also a player) to witness firsthand.”
The younger Cassius ended up tied with three other veteran competitors, Mike Salak (Andrew’s volleyball coach since he was 13), Keith Beckman and Justin Kazmark, going into the last game of the playoff round.
“I knew if my team won the last game I would win by total amount of points,” said Cassius.
After being down 12-9, his team came back to win 15-13, which made him King of the Court.
Cassius took home $600 in prize money. Second place went to Kazmark, and Salak, who coaches men’s volleyball at Brooklyn College, took third.
“This was the best competition ever on the men’s side with two prior Kings competing,” said the elder Cassius.
Those prior Kings are Salak, and Elvis Rodriguez, who at age 40 was last year’s champion. Rodriguez coaches volleyball at Hunter College.
On the women’s side, Gong finally unseated Rewa Chan, who had won the previous four Queen of the Court tournaments.
“Gong is one of our stalwarts, playing every Sunday with partner Steve Tang,” said coach Cassius. “It was an exciting, fun women’s tournament.”
Gong took home $150 in prize money. Rookie Melissa Mowery of the Queens Al Oerter Parks Department Courts placed third and is a player to watch out forat next year’s event, according to Cassius.
“This was the 27th year for this unique event, and we continue to draw the best players in the sport of wallyball to the EAC,” added Cassius. He noted that both Andrew and his younger sister, Hannah, look forward to playing in top-level beach volleyball tournaments this summer.
Regular wallyball action for players of all levels is in full swing every Sunday from 3-7 p.m. at the EAC.