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Spiking in the great outdoors

"Relative to the rest of the country, [the competition level] is a little bit lower," said Guilderland Center's Doug Gordon, who regularly competes in the open division. "Relative to me, I often have my hands full."

"This year, it's been very good " a lot of good experience out there," said Sally Gillich of Clifton Park, who competes in the A division, the second-highest level in CDGD.

Each tournament runs for two days. The first day is for men's and women's compeition, and the second day is for co-ed competition. Prize money is awarded in the open and A divisions, and prizes are given to the top teams in the BB and B divisions.

Players work on their skills at CDGD's free pickup games, which take place Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Avon Crest Park in Niskayuna.

"If the weather is nice, there's usually four or five nets up [for pickup games]," said Skinner. "There's been a lot of rain this summer, so there haven't been that many here. But on a good night, you can have several nets going."

"Sometimes, you plan to be here with a [specific] partner or you arrange to play against another team," said Bishop. "I just come and see who's here."

Unlike its tournaments, CDGD pickup games give players an opportunity to challenge themselves against higher-caliber teams.

"It's all different kinds of players," said Colonie's Andy Mink, who joined last year. "You have to kind of get used to it. You learn a lot playing at the higher level."

Gordon learned how to jump serve like the professionals he saw on TV as a teen, though it took a lot of practice.

"I like being aggressive [when I serve], so I had to probably miss about 7,000 serves before I started getting them in," said Gordon.

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