The Olympic beach volleyball race has taken players on a globe-trotting tour of the world, zig-zagging this way and that. It has gone from Brazil to China — find a good travel agent, players — to all over Europe to Mexico and then everywhere again, sometimes three times. There have been medals and rough finishes, lead changes and partner switches, injuries and victories.
After eight months of events, the race is being put on hold until, for most, March and, for some, late February in Iran for the first three-star of the 2020 season.
Here is a look at the race for the American men.
- Taylor Crabb, Jake Gibb
Average finish: 541.67 points
This isn’t quite a tortoise and the hare type story, but it isn’t all that far off. While Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb – more on them in a bit – were on a three-month overseas bender, not returning to California until AVP Seattle, which they skipped because of all the travel, Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb were at home. For two months, between April 28, when they were leaving the Xiamen four-star (ninth-place finish) and June 28, when they left for Germany for the World Championships (ninth-place finish) Crabb and Gibb remained in the United States. In that stretch, Bourne and Trevor Crabb went to Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, and Poland.
And, in the end, it didn’t much matter. Gibb and Crabb closed the season with five consecutive top-10 finishes: ninth at the Vienna Major, ninth at the Moscow four-star, fourth at the Rome World Tour Finals, first at the NORCECA Continental Championships, first at the Chetumal four-star.
Now they’re leading the Olympic race, with far less wear and tear on their bodies from taking off two months of brutal international travel, and have displayed an ability to consistently finish high in tournaments more than any other team in the country.
2. Tri Bourne, Trevor Crabb
Points: 6,280 (taken from their best 12 finishes)
Average finish: 523.33 points
What a journey this year has been for these two. Both left-side blockers, they’ve learned new positions – they split-block, though at times Bourne has run up to the net to full-time block – and Crabb has learned a new side. Bourne has continued to keep his autoimmune disease, which sidelined him for a little less than two years, at bay, though there were small flare-ups throughout the year where some of the old symptoms returned. They’ve been through a broken hand, which Bourne suffered when he slapped a ref stand following a victory at the Vienna Major. And they’ve also added a member to the team with the birth of Bourne’s daughter, Naia.
Throughout it all, they played more events than any other American men’s team. It’s a good place to be for Bourne and Crabb, who now only get to add their best finishes – the Olympic race takes your best 12 finishes during the Olympic qualifying period – from here on out, replacing sub-par tournaments, like the 17ths in Doha, Ostrava, and Warsaw.
3. Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena
Average finish: 536 points
Dalhausser and Lucena have done this dance before. This quad is now the fourth Olympic push for Dalhausser – he is three for three in qualifying – and the third for Lucena, who is one for two thus far. More than anyone, it seems, they know they don’t necessarily need to hit every single stop on the FIVB Tour to qualify, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve only played in 10 events and skipped the Chetumal four-star to end the year. They still have a loaded 2020 schedule to get their 12 finishes prior to the Tokyo Games, and they still sit in third in the men’s race.
If one were to add their average finish of 536 points two more times, giving them the minimum 12 finishes, they’d be sitting in second, behind only Crabb and Gibb, which would qualify them for Tokyo.
But the race, at this point, is so close between Crabb-Gibb, Crabb-Bourne and Dalhausser-Lucena — no other team realistically in the running, barring a Norwegian-type push — with the gaps between the three so small, that it will come down to the stretch of events between March and June that will decide who goes to Tokyo, and who stays home, looking at the next four years to Paris 2024. Ultimately it may well come down to the last event of siginificance in Olympic qualification, the five-star Rome June 10-14.