Sam Schachter knows how this is all going to sound. He knows it will come off as borderline blasphemy when he describes his new partner, Dan Dearing, as “sort of like when [Anders] Mol came on Tour.” He knows many will scoff or balk when they hear him describe the 31-year-old Dearing as “sort of the perfect package, very Phil-esc.”
Yes, he meant that Phil.
And yet, not once in 20 minutes did Schachter walk back those comparisons. In fact, he continued to make them, referencing Mol, Norway’s transcendent talent and 2021 Olympic gold medalists, and Dalhausser as apt comparisons on multiple occasions.
Because maybe, just maybe, Dan Dearing could be that good.
“The capabilities of what he’s able to do is going to be something I’ve never experienced,” said Schachter, who narrowly missed on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics with Sam Pedlow. “He has the physicality of a Phil and Mol and he’s that lean 6’5”, 6’6”, jumps through the roof, has that ability to hang and do whatever he wants in the air. But he also has the softer skills. He has the ball control, he’s got poise, he’s not an egomaniac, he’s very easy to get along with, very humble. It’s sort of the perfect package, very Phil-esc.
“It’s always tough to be compared to the greats of the game but people are going to look at him and make those connections immediately. That’s motivating for him to be compared to these people. Just being on Tour, I’m sure he’ll learn through osmosis what all these other players are doing and his game is just going to grow exponentially which is very exciting.”
The question beach volleyball players and fans like will be wondering, then, Schachter said: “A lot of people who haven’t seen him are going to be like ‘Where the hell has this guy been all my life?’”
Dearing was on the World Tour once. He made his first main draw in 2014, with Garrett May. Over the next two years, he competed with May with the mixed results typical of a team breaking into the system: a few main draws here, qualifier losses there. Potential, but no defining tournament.
While taking a ninth at the Doha Open in the fall of 2015, Dearing suffered a lower back injury that doctors told him would keep him out at least a year. Maybe it was a sign that his beach volleyball career as a player was over.
He began working full-time, making good money. He was in a relationship he enjoyed, even tinkered with the notion of buying a condo, settling down into a more traditional lifestyle.
“In the back of my mind, I was thinking ‘There’s only one way, a .5 percent chance if I ever go back into beach volleyball,’” Dearing said. “One person needs to give me a phone call. That’s Sam Schachter, he’s the best defender in the country. And that’s exactly what happened.”
In 2019, Schachter saw the writing on the wall with his partnership with Pedlow. They had been successful, yes, the top-ranked team in Canada. But it wouldn’t last past the Tokyo quad. He called Dearing, whom he had played against his entire life, and “asked me to get my shit together,” Dearing said, laughing. “And then COVID delayed us a little bit but I was still putting in the work behind the scenes.”
This past season, Dearing got back onto the World Tour, competing for the first time since 2016. He played in back-to-back-to-back one-stars in Poland, Apeldoorn, and Nijmegen, all with Ivan Reka. Twice, they made it to the final round of the qualifier, and in Apeldoorn, they fell prey to a devilish draw, meeting Poland’s Pawel Lewandowski and Jakub Zdybek in the first round. They’d lose in three sets, and Poland would go on to win the tournament and follow it up with a victory at the Polish National Championships.
“Being back on the World Tour, it felt great,” Dearing said. “It still felt like it was my element.”
This coming year will tell, as Dearing and Schachter will likely begin in the qualifier of the Challenger level events of the new three-tiered system.
“He’s committed to playing a full World Tour,” Schachter said. “He’s committed to wanting to go to the Olympics. He’s all in. With him being all in, once we had clarity, he’s such an obvious pick. He’s like a fine wine, he’s been maturing to be this beautiful thousand dollar bottle of wine.
“I was thrilled to be able to play with him. I honestly feel more blessed. I feel like I’m reaching. Everyone in the world is going to take notice, sort of like when Mol came on Tour and that’s how I see Dan: He’s the next guy up.”
What the rest of the Canadian federation is yet to be seen. Schachter’s former partner, Sam Pedlow, has not made any announcement as to his future aspirations. Canada’s No. 2-ranked team during the Tokyo quad, Ben Saxton and Grant O’Gorman, have also made no such announcement.
USA Volleyball and AVP join forces
On November 16, USA Volleyball and the AVP announced in a news release that they are forming a “new partnership in an ongoing effort to grow and enhance the sport of beach volleyball within the United States.”
“The newly formed strategic alliance will collaborate on events, marketing, coaching and officials’ education, and more while creating new partnerships and sponsorship opportunities across the professional tour, as well as AVP America’s and USA Volleyball’s Beach Tour’s grassroots efforts. Additionally, a unified ranking system and coordinated event calendar will be the result of this partnership.”
What, exactly, this means remains unclear, though the partnership would appear to be an ideal — and long-awaited — marriage, as the AVP is the only major domestic tour in the United States.
“As the national governing body for volleyball, our goal is to expand the strength and breadth of the sport in the United States and to have the world’s best grassroots programs and national teams,” Jamie Davis, President and CEO, USA Volleyball, said in the release. “I am convinced that partnering with the AVP in many aspects of the development of beach volleyball will lead to even further growth of the sport and enhance our competitive excellence on the world stage. Virtually all of USA Volleyball’s national team players also compete on the AVP Tour so this alliance makes total sense.”
Brooke Sweat undergoes knee surgery
Injuries have been an unfortunate motif throughout Brooke Sweat’s career. She qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games basically on one shoulder, and has had numerous knee issues as well. Still, in the 2019-2021 seasons, Sweat was able to play 25 FIVB tournaments, the vast majority of which came with Kerri Walsh Jennings, with whom she narrowly missed on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
She played two AVP events this season with Delaney Mewhirter, finishing 13th in Atlanta and ninth in Manhattan Beach, though she had to withdraw from Chicago.
On Monday, she went under the knife again to get surgery on her knee.
Tim Bomgren, Caitlin Ledoux transitioning to zone defense as parents
Both Tim Bomgren and Caitlin Ledoux were able to play at least man-to-man defense as parents. Not anymore. Bomgren and his wife, Lindsey, are transitioning to a 2-3 zone after announcing that they are expecting their third child to join young Brody and Bella Bomgren.
Retired beach volleyball player Caitlin Ledoux, she of the burgeoning real estate career, is also expecting her third child, though that comes paired with her second. Ledoux and her husband, Jake Whiting, recently announced that they are expecting twins.
“We thought baby number two would make our little family complete — turns out God had other plans for us, and we are so thrilled!” Ledoux wrote on Instagram. “We can’t wait to see Scottie Lynn be a big sister to the Whiting Twins coming soon!”
SOB Volleyball Vacations make their margarita-filled return
COVID’s pause on the beach volleyball world extended from the professionals to the recreational players alike. While AVP players and those on the World Tour had their careers put on hold, thousands of adults also had their favorite annual beach volleyball trips put on hold, as the South of the Border Volleyball Vacations canceled their 2020 events.
This month, SOB made a triumphant return, with a sold-out trip to Puerto Vallarta that features hundreds of vacationing, beach volleyball playing adults, and a cast of professional coaches that includes Eric Beranek, Geena Urango, Angie Akers, Billy Allen, Janelle Allen, Andy Benesh, Evan Cory, Brent Doble, Chaim Schalk, Ty Tramblie, Kristen Nuss, Taryn Kloth, Troy Field, and John Mayer.
The January trip is sold out as well, and only eight spots remain for the final destination, in Cabo.