What this year will look like in terms of events, we do not yet know, nor will we know for at least a few more weeks, it seems. Rumors abound, but little is certain.
However, with some semblance of a season becoming what appears to be more of an inevitability, the partner shuffle for the 2021 pro beach season has begun in earnest. Below is a list of confirmed new partnerships, with a “free agent” section as well.
Billy Allen, Andy Benesh — When Allen took off for Idaho this off-season, some could have presumed that this was the beginning to the end of his late-bloomer of a career. It is not so. Allen confirmed on SANDCAST a few weeks ago that he’s still planning on playing international ball, keeping beach volleyball his full-time pursuit during the summers.
This year, he’ll be doing it with Andy Benesh.
It was a matter of time before Benesh was given a call from someone major. Had there been a full season this year, there is little doubting that he and Eric Beranek — more on him below — would have performed well. They won virtually every non-AVP Champions Cup tournament, and they competed well in the three events they played in the Champions Cup. They won on grass and on sand. Given that they’re both young — Benesh is 25, Beranek 24 — and tremendously talented, it was a partnership that was unlikely to stick, given that they’d both be getting calls from players above them on the totem pole.
Benesh got his with Allen, who has enough AVP and FIVB points to pull Benesh into AVP main draws and FIVB country quotas and qualifiers. It’s really not all that different from, say, Tri Bourne getting scooped by John Hyden: A veteran teaching a can’t-miss talent, pulling him into big events right off the bat.
Eric Beranek, Troy Field — The least surprising partnership move goes to the E&T Show. Beranek and Field have been close friends for a long time, playing and practicing together for years even if they never did compete alongside one another. They’ve both cut their teeth on the AVP Tour, Field with a smattering of partners – Adam Roberts, DR Vander Meer, Casey Patterson (kind of), Chase Frishman Tim Bomgren — and Beranek has bounced around his fair share as well, most recently with Benesh.
With Benesh getting picked up by Allen, and Field and Bomgren going separate ways, it was almost an inevitability that Beranek and Field, now polished talents, would alas join forces.
This will be a fun, explosive team to watch, a sponsor’s dream and the team that Instagram needed most.
Tim Bomgren, Jeremy Casebeer — The key to discovering who Bomgren will play with is simple: Find the best blocker in the United States who is no longer playing much international ball, and that’s his guy. Bomgren blocked for Chaim Schalk while he was in FIVB jail for transferring countries to the United States – it is a two-year waiting period to do so – then scooped Field for the next two years. With Casebeer seemingly finished with the FIVB, Bomgren was an excellent choice. They’re not the biggest team, but then again, this is the exact type of partnership in which Bomgren has thrived: smaller, ball-control oriented, scrappy.
Casebeer brings with him the best serve on Tour, a wealth of experience, and is a fantastic setter.
John Hyden, Bill Kolinske — Casebeer’s most recent partner, John Hyden, in the AVP Champions Cup, has moved to playing with Bill Kolinske. That was actually how the season was going to go prior to the AVP Champions Cup, but with only a handful of teams making it into the main draw on points, Hyden made the efficient and economical decision to play with Casebeer, with whom there would be no need to go into the qualifier.
With the Champions Cup over, and the AVP presumably returning to normal-sized draws – 16-team, 24-team, or 32-team – Kolinske and Hyden are back.
Chaim Schalk, Theo Brunner — Chaim Schalk and Chase Budinger were one of the most successful teams in the AVP Champions Cup, finishing with two thirds and a fifth. Alas, results aren’t everything, and the two went their separate ways, Schalk to a revitalized Theo Brunner (Schalk has a funny habit of taking Casey Patterson’s former partners).
They’re committed to chasing the Paris 2024 Games, and, honestly, they’re one of the best offensive teams in the country. They’ve hired Scott Davenport as their coach, and he is making them into an absolute juggernaut of an offensive team. Defensively, Brunner has perhaps the most formidable block in the country not named Phil Dalhausser.
Should they stick together, Paris is no stretch.
“Normally I probably would have been really upset with that, but I was just like dude I want you to be as successful as possible, I can’t tell you what to do,” Patterson said on SANDCAST. “I hope you do really well and you’re successful and this is the right choice for you. I want you to be successful and if that isn’t with me, then I don’t want someone pity playing with me, I just want to be ‘Hey dude, go for it, go win as many events as possible.’”
Now they can win events together again, as they did in Hermosa Beach in 2019. Together, they also have enough FIVB points to get into the bigger international events, which could make this a build-up year for Budinger to accumulate more and position himself for a partner pickup leading into the Paris Games.
Notable free agents/We don’t know what they’re doing yet
Miles Evans (presumably playing with Ricardo Santos)
Ricardo Santos (presumably playing with Miles Evans)
Rafu Rodriguez (presumably playing with Piotr Marciniak)
Piotr Marciniak (presumably playing with Rafu)