Va. teen club volleyball player suing after getting benched

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A 16-year-old club volleyball player and her family are suing after they say her coaches spiked her playing time, telling her she didn't have the skills to compete with her Virginia team, and her league blocked a transfer to another club.

Audrey Dimitrew and her family sued the Chesapeake Region Volleyball Association on March 10. The lawsuit, which seeks to let Audrey transfer teams and asks for attorney fees, says that when Audrey accepted a spot on the under-16 Chantilly Juniors in November she was led to believe she would get playing time.

Coaches told her she had the potential to play college volleyball, the lawsuit says, and that she would get "significant tournament game experience" as one of two setters on the team.

But things changed after the season began, her attorney Robert J. Cunningham said, and she was told she didn't have the skills to compete with the team. Audrey, a 10th grader at Woodgrove High School in Purcellville, Virginia, was told by her coaches that she could transfer to another club team in the league if she wanted, the lawsuit says. She thought she had scored when another team, NV Premier, wanted her, but the league cried foul and said no to a transfer. After several appeals to the league were denied the family filed suit.

The lawsuit was first reported by The Washington Post (http://wapo.st/1yzMNgp). The newspaper reports the lawsuit is one several filed across the country in recent years as more families have turned to the courts to intervene in youth sports disputes. The stakes can include scholarships for players and an advantage in college admissions.

"Should CHRVA allow players the ability to move teams when they are unhappy with the amount of playtime they are receiving, we would be overwhelmed with requests to change teams," a league official wrote in a January 26 letter to Audrey's parents.

The league's handbook says players are ordinarily forbidden to transfer teams but can switch if they show a "verifiable hardship condition exists." The Dimitrews' attorney says that's true in Audrey's case. The league disagrees.

An attorney for the league, Kenneth G. Stallard, declined to comment on the case Wednesday on behalf of the league, saying it "will not comment on active litigation matters."

However the lawsuit turns out, Audrey is likely out of luck for the season. The lawsuit says just one tournament remains in the club season, though depending on NV Premier's season performance it may be eligible for other tournaments.

On March 12, a Circuit Court judge denied a preliminary injunction in the case, saying the law required him to defer to the decision of the league. According to a transcript of the proceedings Judge John M. Tran called Audrey's case "unfortunate," and he said he was "unhappy" that "a child is not given an opportunity to play." He did not dismiss the case, however, and said the issue has "the possibility of recurring in the future."

George R. A. Doumar, an attorney for Audrey's team, released a statement Wednesday saying "The Chantilly Juniors Volleyball Club continues to wish the best for Audrey."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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