Tri Bourne credited the close friendships he has with his Team AVP Hawai’i teammates for the squad’s victory on Saturday night at the 4-Man by the McKibbin brothers and SharpeVision at Moontower Saloon in Austin, Texas.
“This crew, you put us together with our best friends, and we just had fun,” Bourne said after his team defeated Team AVP California in straight sets.
Then he added, “And the two outsides were ridiculous. Just set them. Set the Taylors and we’re good.”
Or as Taylor Crabb put in on Tri Bourne’s Instagram story, “Just let this guy (Sander) bomb away from the end line. Nobody can pass his serve.”
Indeed, having two AVCA Player of the Year outside hitters in Taylor Sander and Taylor Crabb detonating sets from either pin proved difficult for Team AVP California to stop, and of course, the aforementioned terrifying jump serve of Sander didn’t make staying in system very easy. Crabb’s serving wasn’t too shabby either, after all, he did serve a walk-off ace to win the first set.
People often make the comparison that 4-man possesses the best qualities of both indoor sixes and beach doubles, and in the roster of Sander, Crabb, Bourne, and Trevor Crabb, Team AVP Hawaii also boasted the best of volleyball’s two personalities. In particular, Sander made an impression with the high-flying, hard-hitting style he’s known for as an outside hitter and Olympic bronze medalist with the U.S. men’s national team.
Sander and Taylor Crabb have made public their plans to compete together on the beach, and the duo will make their doubles competitive debut at the FIVB four-star in Itapema, Brazil, next month. Sander said he and Crabb haven’t yet started training seriously. He helped Crabb and Jake Gibb prepare for the World Tour Finals in Cagliari, and Crabb and Sander played on a team at the legendary Emerald Coast Volleyball Week Fudpucker 4-Player Tournament. Of their Fuds performance, Sander said, “It didn’t go that great. We just had a good time. It was just more fun hanging out with friends. We didn’t take it too serious.”
As for why he decided to make the switch to the beach after seven years of playing on the best indoor professional teams in the world and starting in two Olympic Games with Team USA, Sander said, “I grew up playing beach, so it’s part of my life, it’s not completely strange to me. But it’s fun. I always preferred it over indoor anyways. For me, I’ve always wanted to make the switch, it was just the right timing for it.
“Playing indoor is really tough on your body, and living in Europe is also really tough. Not only for me, but for family. So you know, being able to live in the U.S. and travel a little bit, the lifestyle is a lot better. So for me, after playing seven years, I’ve had enough and I want a new challenge. Didn’t want to be burnt out anymore.”
He’s not ready to say he’s done with indoor for forever, but he’s excited to test himself on the beach and see how it goes. “If it’s not meant for me, then I will reevaluate,” he said.
“(Taylor Sander) will be as good as he wants,” Bourne said after the final in Austin. “He’s an unreal athlete, good guy, so I think beach volleyball is lucky to have him. But he’s going to be a pain in my ass for sure.”
On the opposite side of the net in the 4-man final, Team AVP California featured Casey Patterson, Troy Field, Jeremy Casebeer, and Chase Budinger. Patterson set and provided the smack talk and celebrations, while Field scored the occasional jaw-dropping over-the-top kill, Casebeer brought it from the service line, and Budinger did his best to slow down the trigger-happy pin hitters on the opposite side of the net. But even that combination of talents wasn’t enough to overcome the Hawaii squad.
The men’s final in Austin also featured a number of interesting doubles partner dynamics. Taylor and Taylor of course, on the cusp of their new partnership, but also Tri and Trevor who have played together since 2018. Across the net, Patterson and Budinger, who won three tournaments together in an off-again, on-again partnership, but will be splitting with Budinger playing next month in Brazil with none other than Troy Field. On Saturday, Patterson was quick to remind MC Chris “Geeter” McGee (and as a by-product the crowd) that all three of Budinger’s wins — 2019 AVP Hermosa Beach and 2021 AVP Atlanta and Chicago — have come with him.
To get to the final, Team AVP Hawaii took down the team from Dallas, which advanced to the semifinals through the three-team Texas preliminary round on Saturday morning. Team AVP California faced Team SharpeVision, which included AVP tour regular Eric Berenak, as well as local talent in San Antonio’s Peter Connole, Houston’s Lila Tucker, and Austin’s Taylor Hughes, Jerel Deacon, and Rafaa Quesada. Brazil native and Indiana resident Bruno Amorim, who boasts a career-high seventh on the AVP (at the 2019 Austin Open, no less), rounded out the SharpeVision roster.