Talking to Kelly Reeves about beach volleyball is, well, a blast. The 24-year-old bubbles with enthusiasm about her new-found sport.
“As soon as I stepped on the sand, I thought, this is it! Reeves said. This is where I feel most happy. It’s fun, it fits my style of play. Beach sparked something inside me.”
Reeves has reason to be enthusiastic. It typically takes two-plus years to break into the main draw, a year to accumulate points to avoid facing top teams early, and a year of battling through qualifiers. For the most part, Reeves skipped through all of that.
She started her precocious beach career just three months ago. Since then, she has won twice, grabbed a second and third on the NorCECA tour, and notched a fifth- and seventh-place finish on the AVP tour with Ali McColloch. She also gave it a shot at the FIVB tour in Cincinnati, but was unable to qualify.
Reeves’ volleyball resume is impressive for one so young: AVCA sand All-American, 2011 NCAA indoor championship with UCLA, she’s trained with the USA national team, and played professionally abroad.
Reeves started playing at 11 and that was no surprise, considering her mother, Jeanne Beauprey Reeves, taught her to play. Jeanne Reeves knows a thing or two about volleyball, as evidenced by her Olympic silver medal from 1984, back-to-back NCAA championships with UCLA in 1990-1991, and a pro beach career.
As a young girl, Reeves went to a tryout for the Wave volleyball club in San Diego and fell in love with the sport.
“I thought, this is so much fun, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, Reeves said. I did the indoor gig, and played beach mainly for fun during the summers. I would go to Moonlight Beach in San Diego in 2009. I was afraid to play, there were so many legends down there. It was pretty intimidating at first, but then after a few summers I fit in with everyone else, it was super fun and I fell in love with it.”
UCLA was a No. 9 seed when it won the NCAA title almost five years ago.
“It’s one of the best experiences. We were definitely the underdogs going in. It was one of the best feelings ever, she said. Winning that is hard to do, and somehow we just squeaked in there and had a run in playoffs. We played for our seniors, we played for each other, and just enjoyed playing the sport.
I think sometimes girls get caught up in the pressure, we have to win, there’s that pressure that builds. We didn’t really feel it, we saw it as an opportunity to play the sport that we all love. It was just one hell of a ride, to be honest. When that last point went down, my whole body went numb, it was amazing. For me, I wanted more. I wanted another one. To get to the top and be there again.”
Reeves decided to try beach while at UCLA in 2013 and was an All-American.
I do like the independence in beach volleyball. I’ve always loved the team camaraderie that indoor has, and being mentored by the coaches. With the beach, you have to take matters into your own hand. You control the situation. It’s been eye opening for me, learning the mental side. The x’s and o’s of strategy. It’s on you at the beach. There’s no one there to side you out. You and your partner have to figure it out. It’s new and I’m learning as fast as I can. If you’re struggling, you have to figure out a way to side out. It’s on you. That part of it is like a puzzle. You have to stay mentally strong and tough.”
In 2014, Reeves elected to train with the USA national team.
“Indoors, I was never the tallest, never the strongest. I was undersized, and kind of a ball control player. At the national team level, I fell short a little bit, and that was hard. It was a good experience for me to go through.”
From September 2014 through January 2015, Reeves played professionally in Switzerland.
“I came home early. I realized that this wasn’t my path, I didn’t have the burning passion for indoor that I thought I did. I wanted to finish my education and give beach a go. The first thing I did when I got home was call Holly McPeak.
She asked for advice.
Holly asked me to try out for Elite Beach Volleyball (EBV). I showed up, and I was so out of my league. These girls do this for a living. But I went for it, I balled out, and somehow I made it. I trained with EBV, but it was too late to find a partner for the 2015 season.”
She eventually partnered with McColloch, an established pro with significant points.
“Ali tried to get me out on the beach while I was still in college. I told her that I was still going to do the indoor gig for a little bit. Last summer, I bumped into her and asked, What are you doing next year? and she replied, I don’t know. We had a conversation and committed to each other for the year, and we’re both Bruins.”
Of her decision to partner with an unproven player with zero points, McColloch said: “There are so many reasons I chose Kelly as a partner. Instinctually she knows what it takes to win and doesn’t back down from pressure. I felt that our style of play and competitive energy would match up really well and we could be a fun dynamic team to watch.”
Success followed in the NorCECA competition.
“NorCECA’s are really fun, Reeves said. You have to go with the flow, and see what happens. That mindset helps me; the NorCECA’s have shown me what it’s like to be on your own, travel internationally. Every point you have to go full out. NorCECA’s are a stepping stone, I think they have prepared me for the future. ”
McColloch/Reeves took fifth this year at AVP Huntington Beach, and seventh at AVP Seattle.
“In Huntington, we had to play in the qualifier. For me, it was good to kind of get the feel for it, kind of get the vibe of what the AVP is all about. We ended up getting a fifth, and I was stoked. I was so stoked just to get into the main draw at Huntington, I was so fired up. And then in Seattle, we found out that we were in the main draw, and I thought Wow! This is pretty awesome. It’s awesome competing with the top players in the US. It’s a learning experience for me. It’s super fun.”
McColloch/Reeves also hit the FIVB tour qualifier in Cincinnati.
“I got a little taste of that when we went to Cincinnati with Ali, and it opened my eyes, and I thought to myself, this is what I want to do. It was like a little kid walking into a candy store, and my eyes went all big.”
I didn’t know what to expect, all the top teams in the world were there. It was like, whoa. I’m with the cream of the crop, I need to step it up. Unfortunately, we didn’t win our playoff to get into the main draw, but it was a great experience. It was great to see what it takes to be at that level. It’s the real deal. I’m hungry to get after it and get into the main draw.”
I know that I’m not going to get there overnight, it’s a process. It’s preparation to get there down the road. I’m excited, I’m hungry to play, let’s go. I’m all in. I want to be on that stage. I always want more. That’s my mindset. I know that it’s a process, everybody says that you hit your prime in your late 20s, and I’m just 24. I’m a baby, a newbie.
Perhaps, but she has grown-up goals.
“I want to get to the top. It’s not easy, it’s hard. That’s what I want to strive for. I want to win an AVP. I don’t know when that will be, but hopefully soon, Reeves said with a laugh.
I want to get on the international circuit and get to the Olympics. I want to give the international tour a go and strive for 2020.