Team takes its sixth straight title at national gay volleyball championships. A record number of teams take part in Chicago event.

By Ross Forman

The Hermosa Beaches dynasty just keeps rolling along. The eight-player team based in the Los Angeles area, which includes several former Division I college players, captured its sixth consecutive top-tiered AA-Division title at the 27th annual North American Gay Volleyball Association (NAGVA) National Championships, held May 21-24 in Chicago.

The Hermosa Beaches
From left, Pono Kahale, Hunter Haliniak, Robbie Martin of the Beaches

The Beaches needed three games to best the San Francisco Raptors for the trophy – and middle blocker Robbie Martin of Chicago registered the match-deciding block for the title. He has played for the Beaches' last three titles, was an All-State high school volleyball player in Chicago who then played two seasons at Loyola University.

"That was a nice moment," Martin said of his block. Martin, 27, who is gay, is now the director of finance for

The NAGVA Championships drew a record 133 teams with about 1,100 players, including teams from Puerto Rico and Canada.

"It was an incredible tournament, the largest event we've ever had," said NAGVA President Rick Talley of Houston. The previous record for teams participating was about 90. "The play has been very, very good in all four divisions. There were a lot of very closes matches."

The 2010 NAGVA Championships will be held in Portland, Ore.

Hunter Haliniak, who was born and raised in Hawaii and now lives in Los Angeles, is a six-time NAGVA national champion – and the Beaches' team captain.

"It was awesome," Haliniak said of the title. "This probably was the sweetest (title) of them all. [Past NAGVA Championships] weren't as competitive as it was this year; it definitely was challenging."

The Beaches won all four of its matches on the final day of play.

"The level of play across the board was consistently higher this year," Haliniak said. "Normally, there are one or two strong (AA Division) teams, that's it. But this year there were several and a lot of possible Cinderella teams. We had to earn every point we got. We had to work for the title."

Haliniak, 29, who is gay, played at the University of Hawaii and then the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Pono Kahale, 29, a New York City-based physical education teacher, was named the MVP of the AA-Division. Kahale, who is gay, played four seasons as an outside hitter at Pepperdine from 1998-2002.

Here are the winners and runners-up of the different divisions:

AA Division
1st Place: Hermosa Beaches
2nd Place: San Francisco Raptors
MVP: Pono Kahale, Hermosa
A Division:
1st Place: San Antonio Cherries
2nd Place: Houston Cherry Poppers
MVP: Albert Trevino, San Antonio
BB Division:
1st Place: Minneapolis Smack
2nd Place: Seattle Battle Cattle
MVP: Joe Throndson, Minneapolis
B Division:
1st Place: Baltimore Disturbia
2nd Place: New York High Klass
MVP: Phuoc Le, Baltimore

We will have a complete photo gallery from the event upcoming.

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