Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross are the surprise of the 2017 pro beach volleyball season.
This past weekend they made it to the final of FIVB Moscow before losing to Brazilians Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca in only their second tournament together. Previously this season, they finished fourth in FIVB Fort Lauderdale, pretty impressive for a team that is just getting started by two players who have never finished better than fifth with other partners.
They went directly from Moscow to New York where they’ll play in this week’s AVP event. What’s more, Sweat, 31, and Ross, 24, have already been seeded fifth in this summer’s FIVB World Championship in Vienna in late July.
The former Brooke Youngquist is from Estero, Fla., married to pro beach player Nick Sweat. She played indoors at Florida Gulf Coast University. Ross, who is from Carlsbad, Calif., played beach at Pepperdine and indoor at Washington.
They’re seeded fifth this week and await a pair that qualifies. We were able to catch up with them on their way to practice while negotiating New York traffic.
VBM: You’ve reached a new level on the international tour. How does that feel?
Sweat: It feels good. We’ve been training hard this year, and it’s nice to see that hard work pay off in competition. It feels really good.
VBM: You’ve both had solid results, but it looks like you’ve found synergy together. When did you know that you had something good together.
Ross: I knew we had something when I texted Brooke and then it was confirmed when we practiced together (laughs).
Sweat: For me, Summer has always been a really consistent, solid, steady player. I like her demeanor on the court. As soon as we had that first practice I knew it could be something really cool and really fun. I was really looking forward to sharing that love for the game with her. Playing with Summer was exactly what I needed.
VBM: Congratulations on your silver medal in Moscow, a tournament with an extremely challenging field. How did you adjust to the temperature?
Sweat: It was so cold. Definitely the first time I’ve played in hail. Right before our match with Austria, the referee told us that our long sleeve shirts didn’t match.
Ross: They were a different shade of red.
Sweat: So we had to take them off and play in our sports bra tops, so I think that fired us up even a little bit more, we because we definitely needed to get that game over with. It was definitely challenging, but it made us focus on executing every skill, so we could get out of there quickly.
VBM: You’re now the top-ranked American team, how does that feel?
Ross: We’ve only played two tournaments, but we’re ready for more. We want to prove ourselves.
Sweat: We really don’t pay that much attention to that. We’re just playing, having fun, and seeing where that takes us.
VBM: How is New York treating you?
Sweat: We’re both excited to be competing domestically in New York. We’re getting to experience the traffic right now trying to get to practice. We love playing, and we’re excited to be in New York competing on the AVP.
VBM: What does the your pre-world championships schedule look like?
Sweat: From New York, we’ll head to the Hague (for a three-star event), followed by AVP Seattle, Porec (Croatia), Gstaad (Switzerland), Long Beach (WSOBV President’s Cup), Olsztyn (Poland), and then World Championships in Vienna (Austria). With the amount of FIVB tournaments out there, we kind of have to play everything.
VBM: What is your coach Ty Tramblie bringing to your team?
Sweat: Ty brings a lot of energy to the team and to our practice. I think Summer and I are similar players, we’re both low-key, not too animated on the court, and Ty as a player is the opposite, so we’re feeding off of that and trying to bring a little bit of that onto the court with us. We might not show that outwardly on the court very much, but having that fire within us. He’s so positive with us, he sees what we have together, and is working to make us better together.
VBM: What are you working on between now and the World Championships?
Sweat: One of the biggest things we’re working on it isn’t a skill, but being consistent throughout a tournament. I think we were really consistent on Friday in Moscow, we played really good, really smooth volleyball, and then on Saturday, we kind of had to fight for our wins on Saturday, but by the time the finals came we were just not playing consistent volleyball. That’s the main thing, if we can play at a high level consistently, we’re going to be putting ourselves in a really good position.”
VBM: When you travel together, how do you spend your time away from volleyball?
Ross: We watch Project Runway, the Bachelorette …
VBM: Who are you rooting for on the Bachelorette?
Ross: We’re both rooting for Dean, super hard.
Sweat: Summer wants him to lose.
Ross: Oh yeah, I want him to lose so he can become the next bachelor.
Sweat: We get along really well on and off the court.
Ross: We braid each other’s hair (laughs).
Sweat: I don’t braid her hair. If one person needs to do something, we both go do it, we find the gym, we hang out…
Ross: We’re buddies.
Sweat: It’s only our second tournament, so we haven’t had too much to do yet.
VBM: Brooke, when you’re on tour, what’s your favorite meal?
Ross: It’s fish and chips!
Sweat: “No (laughing). Coming back from Moscow, I enjoyed a really good breakfast here. Even though we had a good breakfast in Moscow, it was great having a really good meal here. I enjoy all meals, actually.
VBM: Summer, your favorite meal?
Ross: I was really looking forward to getting some tuna. I got it the other day.