Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson have experienced a tumultuous three seasons as partners. In 2013, they won gold at the Shanghai Grand Slam, only their second international tournament as a team, and a month later took silver at the Corrientes Grand Slam in Argentina. They added another bronze and four AVP titles to their record before the season ended.
In 2014, however, they struggled, regularly finishing ninth and 17th on the international tour before finally breaking through to win a medal, bronze at the Stare Jablonki Grand Slam in Poland, August 24. After that event, they returned to the U.S. where they won all three remaining AVP events.
And this year, Patterson and Gibb are the two-time AVP title-winners and the top-ranked American team on the international tour, clocking in at No. 5 after taking silver in the last Grand Slam event of the season, which they added to their gold medal from St. Petersburg, Florida, in mid June.
Their performance earned them a spot in next week’s Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they will battle against nine other world-leading teams for the $100,000 top prize.
Were ready and really excited to play for a lot of money, said Patterson. That’s for sure.
The event doesnt include Olympic qualification points, which in a year when all eyes are on Rio and every move these athletes make seems to be determined by its Olympic ramifications, changes the tone.
But, Gibb emphasized, This isnt an Olympic sport, it’s a professional sport. We play for a living, so [this tournament is] very important.
In their pool, Gibb and Patterson will face Dutch dynamos Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, Brazilian beasts Evandro Gonalves Oliveira Jnior and Pedro Salgado Solberg, Spanish snipers Adrian Gavira Collado and Pablo Herrera Allepuz, and Italian youngsters, and wild-card entry recipients, Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo. In the opposite pool, the gold-medal favoritesboth in this tournament and in Rioare Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil. Theyll be challenged by Christiaan Varenhorst and Reinder Nummerdor of the Netherlands, Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton of Canada, Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria, and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the U.S., who received the other wild card entry to the competition.
Weve beaten all the teams that were playing and weve lost to all the teams that were playing, said Gibb. Theyre all a challenge.
There isnt one match that I feel like, Oh yeah, we got this, agreed Patterson. Every match is going to be [like] a final in a Grand Slam or a Major Series. It’s going to be pretty cool. I think for the spectators, it’s going to be the coolest tournament you could probably go to this whole year.
With Austrian event producer Hannes Jagerhofer, known in the volleyball world as the organizer of the acclaimed Klagenfurt event, on board, along with sponsors Swatch and Red Bull, Gibb and Patterson feel confident the event will be a great experience for players and fans alike.
I hope [the American crowd] gets it, said Gibb. I hope they get the energy of it and understand how cool it can be. Because if they do, I think they will get behind it and it will be maybe one of the coolest events weve ever had in the U.S.
Regardless of what happens in Fort Lauderdale, and despite the ups and downs of the last few years, Gibb and Patterson are committed to their partnership and their Olympic dream.
Weve gotten to the point where were good enough as a team and were confident enough in ourselves as players that we dont have to look to other partnership options or look in other directions to figure it out, said Patterson. I feel like that’s the power and the strength that we have as a partnership. Were the old-school, solid marriage-type partnership, where it’s just like the couple that’s been married 80 years and is happy as can be.
Gibb agreed. Were just closer, on the court, off the court, our lives are intertwined, and it’s fun fighting for somebody that you really enjoy being around.
After the event in Fort Lauderdale, Gibb and Patterson will travel to Mexico for the Puerto Vallarta Open (October 6-11) and then compete in the NORCECA event in Trinidad and Tobago (November 11-16) before kicking off their offseason, when they will try to rest and recover, while remaining in tiptop condition in hopes of starting the 2015 competition season at full speed.
Gibb and Patterson’s first match of the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals will be against Italians Nicolai and Lupo on center court, Tuesday, September 29, at 11 a.m. ET.