The Hague is not close to the United States. It’s a little less than 5,000 miles from the U.S. and you’re lucky to get a flight for less than four figures. Which is quite a relief to the two teams who played in Monday’s country-quota match for the first tournament of the 2019 season — OK, technically 2019 tournaments have been since September, but c’mon, it wasn’t 2019 — a four-star at The Hague.

At 9 a.m. on the south side of the Manhattan Beach Pier, the new — and potentially long-term — partnership of Eric Zaun and Jeremy Casebeer beat Ed Ratledge and Avery Drost 21-19, 27-25, securing a spot in a Jan. 2 qualifier.

The win is, while not quite in the realm of momentous, big for both Casebeer and Zaun. Zaun because, well, you never want to lose to one partner whom you dropped, let alone two, and because Casebeer is arguably the best long-term option for Zaun’s international aspirations moving forward.

“I think this early start and lack of off season is going to really pay off down the stretch leading into the bulk of the 2019 season,” Zaun said.

But for Casebeer, this is, above all else, an enormous sigh of relief. He has played in country quotas in Russia and Croatia, Brazil and Austria and Portugal. He has made it out of just one, in Brazil with Derek Olson.

After Monday, you can make that two, without the added expenses of an international trip and a very, very long flight home.

“We really appreciate USA Volleyball setting up these stateside country quotas so that we don’t have to travel across the world to play one match against two guys that live down the street,” Zaun said. “It’s just nice to be in shape and playing decent volleyball in December. The last couple seasons around this time of year I would just be getting fat and calling it bulking.”

The field for The Hague, then, is officially set, with Reid Priddy-Theo Brunner, Casey Patterson-Chase Budinger, Casebeer-Zaun and Miles Evans-Billy Kolinske representing the United States for the men.

The women, meanwhile, had no need for a country quota at all, as Kelly Claes-Sarah Sponcil, Emily Day-Betsi Flint, Brittany Howard-Kelly Reeves, Alix KlinemanApril Ross, and Brooke Sweat-Kerri Walsh Jennings are all straight into either the qualifier or main draw.

FIVB cancellations: When the 2019 FIVB schedule was released, with 47 events populating the list, it was either cause for concern or excitement, or perhaps a bit of both. Money has notoriously been of short supply in the sport of beach volleyball, and to put on 47 events could mean a severe dilution of it or a steep influx.

The past week or so has shown that it was likely more of the former. The FIVB announced the cancellation of the Fort Lauderdale Major, the premiere international beach volleyball event of the year — though the AVP’s collaboration with the FIVB in May for the Huntington Beach Open also has an argument — dropping the number of major events from four to three, lest you count the World Tour Finals, which will be held in Rome at the end of the season.

“I wouldn’t say Florida changed too much of our plans,” said Miles Evans, who is straight into The Hague main draw with Billy Kolinske. “It’s definitely a bummer having a five-star cancelled but we’re definitely going to take advantage of this four-star coming up and take a little break after.”

Plans didn’t necessarily change for Kolinske and Evans, who have been playing for 14 months overseas virtually nonstop. But to some of the top teams, who passed on The Hague in anticipation of preparing for Fort Lauderdale in February, it extends the off-season a bit more than they would have liked.

Had some known, take Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, that Fort Lauderdale would have been canceled, they likely would have played The Hague, understanding they’d have until March before the next four- or five-star tournament.

“We’ll probably take a little time off, just to stay fresh,” Kolinske added. “Then we’ll get ready for the next one.”

Other canceled events were also, unfortunately, U.S. stops, in Florida, Texas and Los Angeles. Those were originally planned to be promoted by p1440, though here it is also important to note that p1440 and the FIVB had never confirmed the events in the first place. The possibility of hosting the events had been discussed, but nothing set in stone, so technically there were no events to cancel in the first place.

Still, there remain 40-plus events on the international schedule, including…

Snow volleyball tour! All right, so “tour” might be a bit of a misnomer, but there are now multiple snow volleyball events on the international calendar. The first is taking place in Moscow on Dec. 20, and the U.S. is sending one male and one female team.

Now there are also stops, put on by the CEV, in Turkey on January 11-13 and Georgia – the country, not the state – on February-15-17.

So if you’re in Southern California and need some snow in your life to make it look like Christmas, there you have it.

It’s officially — can we say this? — snow volleyball season.

LSU adds four players to beach team

LSU recently announced the finalization of its roster, with four new faces added this season, one via transfer, three via the indoor team, the most notable of which is Taryn Kloth, who just finished an All-American career at Creighton.

The MVP of the Big East Championship, Kloth is also a three-time member of the Creighton dean’s list and a three-time Big East All-Academic.

“Taryn brings the ultimate level of volleyball experience and has performed in the brightest spotlights on the indoor volleyball stage,” LSU coach Russell Brock said in a release. “She has all the skills and tools necessary to make an elite blocker.  We are excited to help her transition to the beach game and can’t wait to see how she impacts our program.”

Three seniors from the LSU indoor volleyball team will also join the beach squad to finalize the roster: Katie Kampen, Toni Rodriguez and Olivia Beyer.

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