HONOLULU — The USA’s Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman were declared Kings and Queens of the Court Friday at the third stop in the FIVB King of the Court exhibition series at Fort deRussy beach.
The event was the first Queen of the Court conducted by the FIVB, with six USA and nine international teams per gender and was a prelude to the The AVP Double Elimination Tournament that runs Saturday and Sunday.
Second place went to Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum and Americans Emily Day and Betsi Flint, while Americans Sean Rosenthal and Chase Budinger and Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes took third.
Sara Hughes and Summer Ross received an award for the longest reign as King (20 consecutive side outs), while the men’s award went to the Netherlands’ Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen (eight consecutive side outs).
Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Ricardo Santos were named tournament MVPs.
The men’s final was a low-scoring affair, shortened to eight minutes due to the onset of darkness, ending with Crabb and Gibb three, Mol and Sorum three, and Rosenthal and Budinger one. The tiebreakers: the longest scoring run and then the team that reached its score first. Both Crabb-Gibb and Mol-Sorum’s longest scoring run was two, but Crabb-Gibb reached three first and were declared the champions.
“The wind picked up and made the serving better. Everyone played really well, it was just a battle of three really good teams,” Crabb said.
“I think it was like one of those football games where it ends at 7-3,” Gibb said, “and maybe the fans don’t like it as much, but it’s a defensive battle, but in our minds, we played some good defense, and so did the other teams, so it was a great tournament to be a part of, and to have it go down to the wire like that. That was fun.”
“The format was awesome. It’s something new, it’s still volleyball, and a win anywhere in volleyball feels good.”
Crabb grew up on the island.
“We’ve got my family, and a lot of friends over here. Any time you get to play in front of your friends and family with the best teams in the world, you want to do great,” Crabbb said. “I’m happy that we played well and got the win.”
Stockman and Larsen dominated their final, scoring 13 points while Day-Flint and Pavan-Humana-Paredes had three each after making a late comeback in the semifinal.
“I think we really did a good job of working on our side of the court passing,” Larsen said. “I think the round before the finals we had a little comeback in the end which guaranteed us a spot in the finals, so that momentum brought us into the finals. It’s a fun tournament, a fun format, and we really like being here in Hawai’i.”
“The format is different and fast-paced,” Stockman said. I like that you’re playing different teams the whole time. There’s not a lot of strategic thinking going on, you’re just going in worrying about playing good volleyball and your own side.
“It came down to the last minute.” Larsen said. Even though it was getting tense, and we needed to score points, we stayed calm and worked long touches, and didn’t try to rush anything when we were playing, so I think that helped us be successful.”
For those unfamiliar with the King of the Court format, a brief primer.
First, knock off the existing Kings by serving and scoring a real point. Second, earn points by siding out against your competition (missed serves don’t count). Third, either reach a score of 15 first, or have the highest score at the end of the 16 (or 20) minute period.
Fifteen teams per gender, six American and nine international are split into three pools of five. For the first round, the top two of five teams made the semifinals. In the semifinals, the top two make the finals. If two teams are tied at the end of the time period, the team that reached that number first moves on.
At the end of the first round, the last place team is eliminated, leaving four teams in the pool. In the second round, the fourth place team is eliminated. The top three teams in each pool plus the highest-scoring fourth place team make the semifinal rounds.
The top two teams from each of the semifinal pools, plus the highest scoring third place team make up the final pool.
The format’s strength is that five teams can battle in a nearly continuous manner, keeping fans involved and excited. The format also eliminates players arguing with officials and stalling tactics such as frequent sunglass cleanings.
The format’s weakness is that the format allows teams to collude, as they are only playing to eliminate one team. For example, Chase Budinger and Sean Rosenthal had zero points with 38 seconds left, needing to get to the King side and score four points to advance to the semifinals by becoming the best fourth place team. They sided out, and Budinger scored two quick points, hitting on two to save time and score two points. They then faced Crabb and Gibb, who had already qualified for the next round, who allowed Budinger’s hit on two to hit the sand unopposed. The fourth serve, marginally before the whistle, was bumped over by Budinger on one into the open court. Their opponents didn’t care as all of them had already qualified for the semifinals. Budinger and Rosenthal’s nearly impossible four points in 38 seconds, however, eliminated Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb from reaching the semifinals.
The end of timed matches is typically anticlimactic, as teams typically miss serves because first, they are preventing the other team from earning points (there is no consequence for missed serves), and second, in a desperate attempt to score an ace.
For example, at the conclusion of men’s semifinal 2/second round, Saymon and Gusto trailed with five points with a minute left. Patterson/Slick, Christiaan Varenhorst-Jasper Bouter, and Brouwer-Meeuwsen all had seven points, and had nothing to gain by serving in to allow Saymon and Gusto a chance to earn a point. The situation resulted in four consecutive missed serves, denying Saymon and Gusto a chance to tie with two sideouts.
The final King of the Court exhibition is September 22-23 in Huntington Beach, Calif.