Cherry’s Reclaim Top-Spot at the Biggest LezVolley Volleyball Tournament Yet

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Loud cheers, good music, and the thunderous sound of volleyball spikes could be heard echoing around Cherry Grove, on Aug. 12. Boatloads of people gathered to watch the 2023 annual LezVolley beach volleyball tournament. This great event has become increasingly popular over the years and is “the most popular LGBTQ+ event for women and non-binary people on Fire Island, especially within the lesbian community,” according to the event’s website. This year, the event was larger than it has ever been before, featuring 30 teams and 300 competitors.

The event was founded in 2011 by best friends Kristine Bungay and Danielle Stanziale. The key driving factor in the creation of the event was Bungay’s love for the sport. “This game is my favorite game ever, I get chills just talking about it,” Bungay explained. “There used to be an event here and they left and we love Fire Island, and my best friend, Danielle, is the only one who could think of pulling off an event that uses the sport I love, and within eight or nine months we just picked a date and we did it.”

Between the love of the sport and the desire to give back to Fire Island, LezVolley was created.

People lined the beach to watch the tournament unfold, as the 30 teams played match after match, from 12:10 p.m., with the championship ending around 5:35 p.m. There was a total of five courts and matches went every 15 minutes with each team aiming to score as much as they could before their clock ran out. Each game had only one referee and there were no referees to watch the lines, as it was based on sportsmanship and honesty. At the end of the 60 total matches played, the top eight teams advanced to the playoffs, the semi-finals, and lastly, the championship.

When the championship round rolled around, it was the Cherry’s and Sandcastle’s left standing. As you would expect, this was the matchup of the day. It featured numerous highlight-reel-worthy bumps, digs, and spikes, as well as beautiful back-and-forth volleys. The Cherry’s were on fire to start the match that was enclosed in a gigantic circle of spectators, which included everyone on the beach cheering loudly. After the two teams switched sides, the Sandcastle’s cut down the Cherry’s sizable lead. The Sandcastle’s got rolling and looked like they were on their way to finishing the game off and winning the championship. The Cherry’s kept their cool and came roaring back to reclaim their spot at the top, after not doing so last year, but winning the few years prior.

The tournament is about much more than just winning the championship, especially for Stanziale and Bungay. “I just love the feeling of everyone having somewhere to go and it’s been non-stop, ‘Thank you, we love this sport,’ and everyone getting to meet people but, for me, it’s just taking something you love and you want people to leave happy,” Bungay stated. The wife of Danielle Stanziale, Johanne Millet, also plays a large part in the success of the event and admires what it does for its participants, the community, and all those who support it.

“The best part about this event is creating a safe space for all the women, queer, non-binary people that are looking for sporting events where they can just be themselves and support Fire Island and the Cherry Grove community,” Millet said.

People from all over, not just Long Island, come to partake in the tournament or support their friends and family. It has strong ties that run deep in every person that attends it.

The tournament has come a long way since its creation, which featured only six teams its first year. “The only reason it stopped at 30 is because the space is too small,” Millet said, on how much it has grown.

When asked what the key is to pulling off such a great and successful event, Bungay explained, “You’re looking at her (talking about Johanne Millet), Danielle’s great amazing wife, and really strong people, key people who will put you in your place, the amazing teams we’ve had since day one and their loyalty to us and the fact that they know they believe in something like this really is key.”

Millet has been a huge factor in the growth of the event. She’s a marketer who runs the tournament’s social media pages and website, which has really helped the event take off.

“When I met my wife, she had already had the event for a couple of years, but there was no website, no social media channels, it was word of mouth and it was already pretty popular,” Millet explained. “I saw the potential and was like this is great, people need to know about it, so I created the website and social channels, but people want to see this so it’s not too difficult (in terms of running it), the most challenging thing is just trying to keep it fresh.” Seeing the impact of her contributions, Millet said, “It’s been insane to see it grow and I feel very proud to see all the difference social media has done for the event.”

However, Millet doesn’t want her contributions to take away from what Bungay and Stanziale have accomplished and continue to accomplish. After all, it is a huge group contribution that needs great teamwork, which they continue to display every year.

“Danielle and Kristine have created something bigger than anyone has ever imagined, it’s beautiful, it takes a specific type of people to run this from a business perspective and be the face of it,” Millet stated.

The group will continue their great work and provide a fantastic atmosphere for the community, as they are targeting Aug. 10, 2024, as the date for next year’s tournament. If you would like to support the event or follow along you can check out their website,, or their social media pages, LezVolley. It’s never too early to start forming your team for next year’s tournament.