When the beach volleyball season begins, nobody can really say for sure. The same goes for the end, too.
Is it over now, with the final Major of the season decided?
Or does it not end until the calendar year is over, after the conclusion of a three-star in China, a four-Star in Mexico, and the NORCECA continental championships?
Does anybody know?
Whether official or not, we consider Rome to be the final event of the 2019 FIVB season, since the FIVB calendar does, as do most of the players. The aforementioned events in China and Mexico are, technically speaking, 2020 events, since that’s where they’re listed on the FIVB calendar.
And with the end of the season comes our final 2019 FIVB power rankings.
1. April Ross, Alix Klineman, USA: Not the way the A Team wanted to end this year, no. But to sustain the pace that Ross and Klineman had begun the season with for the entirety of a season would be Norwegian-ish, and that’s nearly impossible. Not once did they finish outside of the top-10, and only twice, the final two events of the season, did they fail to make the quarterfinals. In Klineman’s second full-time year on the FIVB, they won three events, including a Major in Gstaad, and nearly claimed the title of World Champs. What could come in year three? FIVB rank: 4 Olympic rank: 2
2. Sarah Pavan, Melissa Humana-Paredes, Canada: One of my favorite parts about watching this team is that almost every time you watch them, you are watching history being written. They are the first Canadian team to do almost everything — win a medal at major, win World Champs, win the Commonwealth Games. I don’t know for a fact if they’re the first all-Canadian team to win an AVP, but they have to be one of the only ones to do so. Next summer, they could very well be the first Canadian women to win a beach volleyball Olympic medal. FIVB rank: 2 Olympic rank: 3
3. Agatha Bednarczuk, Eduarda Lisboa Duda, Brazil: One of the easiest things to forget in this sport at the moment is just how young Duda is. She’s only 21, and already the owner of FIVB Best Hitter, Best Offensive Player, Most Outstanding, Rookie of the Year, and Tour Champion. That’s nuts. And that doesn’t even take into account how good her partner is! When factoring in the fact that Agatha is an Olympic silver medalist, has won nine FIVBs and brings with her 15 years worth of professional experience. Similar to the two teams above them, this team has tremendous upside, as Duda is, astonishingly, only going to get better with experience. FIVB rank: 5 Olympic rank: 4
4. Rebecca Cavalcanti, Ana Patricia Silva, Brazil: Shocker: Another Brazilian team in the top five. Rebecca and Ana deserve, at the very least, a medal for most miles traveled, rivaled perhaps only by Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat. They hit 16 events this season, an unbelievable amount when factoring in how many countries that required them to compete in. A hot start to the year, which included four medals in five events, gave way, predictably, to a bit of a (relative) mid-season slump, but then they got hot again. They took bronze at the Gstaad Major and another bronze to end the season at the World Tour Finals in Rome. They’ve proven, as about half a dozen Brazilians have, that they can perform on the biggest stages. FIVB rank: 1 Olympic rank: 1
5. Maria Antonelli, Carolina Salgado, Brazil: Another top-five spot, another Brazilian team. Brazil is as stacked as any country ever has been in terms of beach volleyball talent. Deep enough that Maria and Carol, the team who finished 2018 ranked No. 1 in the world, had to spend much of the year coming out of qualifiers and country quotas despite holding one of the top spots on the planet in terms of FIVB points. In two majors — Gstaad and Vienna — they came out of the qualifier to make the finals, finishing the year seeded No. 3 for the World Tour Finals. If you think the USA Olympic race is a hotly-contested one, turn your gaze to South America and think again. FIVB rank: 6 Olympic rank: 5
6. Nina Betschart, Tanja Huberli, Switzerland: This is a team who can certainly be a medal contender in Tokyo, and also a medal contender for a few more quads, both as individuals and a team. They’re young — Betschart is 23, Huberli 27 — and improving quickly, taking over the top spot in the Swiss federation while putting together a consistent season of nine top-10 finishes. One of the more convincing aspects of this team is their performances in the Majors — fourths in Hamburg and Gstaad, fifth in Vienna, ninth in Rome. They play their best against the best. FIVB rank: 8 Olympic rank: 9
7. Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brooke Sweat, USA: Kerri Walsh Jennings is a superhuman. If you’ve been following the sport at all the past few, oh, decades, you know this to be true. Now she’s doing it again, making a run at an absurd sixth Olympic Games while helping her kids with schoolwork, launching a company, and winning medals throughout. And it should absolutely not go under the radar how good Sweat is. She’s won with every partner she’s had. She’s won despite a long list of unfortunate injuries. And she’s still winning. They’re second in the USA Olympic race for a reason. FIVB rank: 3 Olympic rank: 6
8. Kelly Claes, Sarah Sponcil, USA: These two just hit the ground running at around 800 miles per hour, roughly. Sponcil graduated, won a National Championship … then didn’t come back to the United States for, like, three months or something. I’m not sure how many people reasonably expected this team to do so well out of the gate, but to finish the season ranked seventh on the FIVB and in the Olympic race, while being the third-ranked American team in the latter, is, I’d think, a surprise to most considering how inexperienced they are as individuals and a team. They finished the year on five straight top-10s, and are only getting better. FIVB rank: 7 Olympic rank: 8
9. Kelley Larsen, Emily Stockman, USA: What I love about this team: They can beat the best in the world, and they’ve proven so. What gives me pause about this team: They have weird stretches where they can lose to a lot of teams it doesn’t seem they should. When looking at rankings, though, I like the giant killers, and these two are giant killers. Their potential, especially on the world tour, is far from being tapped. With another three quarters of a season prior to the Olympic Games, this is the team that could make the biggest leap. FIVB rank: 10 Olympic rank: 10
10. Heather Bansley, Brandie Wilkerson, Canada: This season went a bit differently from the last. In 2018, Bansley and Wilkerson graced the top spot in the world, winning one event after the next in a torrid finish to the year. In 2019, they took a bit of a holding pattern between the top 10 and top five — not bad spots to be, just not No. 1 in the world. I have roughly zero doubt that they’ll climb back into the top-five, because that’s the kind of thing that happens when one player, Bansley, has been named, several times, as the Best Defender in the world, while the other, Wilkerson, has been named Best Blocker. FIVB rank: 9 Olympic rank: 7