The coronavirus may be decimating the global and American stock markets, but one place you won’t find its impact is the annual SANDCAST Beach Volleyball “Stocks to Buy.”
This week, as we did in 2019, Tri Bourne and I broke down the top up-and-coming prospects of the season as our stocks to buy this year. I’m only writing about 10 — five men, five women — so to find the rest, you can listen to our podcast, which also answered fan questions, discussed the new partnerships being formed, and talked a little college volley.
How good is Miles Partain? He already has his own emoji among the beach volleyball community. He’s emoji good. You can always identify when Partain is at a practice, as any video of him playing will include the baby emoji, referring to him as “baby Miles,” whereas Miles Evans would be the not so baby Miles. Baby or not, the 18-year-old UCLA recruit’s fifth-place finish in Chicago was no fluke. He’s spent the off-season training with the USA Volleyball groups, and has been called up into similarly high-level practices when he isn’t.
Andy Benesh/Eric Beranek
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the Beranekquake that’s gone viral on social media, the one where he takes a back shoot set from his new partner, Benesh, and pounds it somewhere to Mexico. Granted, there was no defense, and their only tournament to date ended with a second in Treasure Island to Raffe Paulis and Ricardo, but this is a young, up-and-coming team with loads of potential and, better yet, dedication. They have a coach and what appears to be an organized, productive off-season heading into what could be a breakout year for both.
Last year was Friend’s first as a defender, and it was also the best of his career. After relieving himself of blocking duties, he scooped up Duncan Budinger and qualified in five of seven tournaments, tying a career-high ninth in Austin. Like Partain, Friend has been a regular in the USAV training sessions, and with a year of defending under his belt, his ceiling is only getting higher. Whether he gets pulled up by a bigger blocker or must begin again in the qualifiers remains to be seen, but he’ll be a regular in the main draw this year.
Palm alas made his AVP breakthrough last season, a much anticipated one after winning five NVL events and making an additional seven finals in four seasons. He and Dylan Maarek, who’s also having a terrific off-season, qualified in Hermosa Beach, stunning Chaim Schalk and Jeremy Casebeer in the second round on stadium court. He’s already straight into AVP Huntington Beach after winning Big Shots in Atlantic City this past fall with JM Plummer, another notable to watch this season, so he’ll have a big stage at the beginning of the season.
Steve Roschitz/Pete Connole
Connole had only won two AVP qualifier matches prior to last season. Then came New York, when, as the 20 seed in the qualifier, Roschitz and Connole engineered upsets over Andy Benesh and Adam Roberts, Maddison and Riley McKibbin, and Kyle Radde and Brad Connors. So quick was their improvement that by the end of the season, it’s possible that none of those wins could be labeled as an upset. They were straight into Manhattan and qualified again in Chicago, making more main draws than Connole had previously won qualifier matches.
DR Vander Meer
Kelly Reeves/Terese Cannon
I’m big on this team this year, in large part because I think a breakout has been due for Kelly Reeves for a few years and it seems the pieces are coming in place for it. In just four events together as partners, the two have already logged a third at the Manhattan Beach Open, where their only losses were to Alix Klineman and April Ross and Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan; a ninth in Hawai’i; and a silver medal at the Siem Reap two-star. That is a heck of a start to a partnership that has upside, youth, hunger, and a strong all-around skill set.
Corinne Quiggle/Falyn Fonoimoana
Putting too much weight in early results can sometimes be a dangerous thing. The honeymoon phase is a real thing. But sometimes they can also be promising indicators, and the two NORCECAs that Quiggle and Fonoimoana have played were won in nearly flawless fashion, with just a single set dropped, and that includes the qualifiers they needed to play as well. Heading into 2020, they’ll both benefit from a full season as professionals under their belt and an entire off-season of training together.
Geena Urango/Emily Hartong
If I had any money to bet — I don’t, because weddings are expensive — and there was someone to take my bet on a team this season this would be the one. Partly because a tumultuous year would have driven the price of the Urango–Hartong stock way down, and therefore the value has the potential to jump quite high, but also because this is just a legitimately really good team that can do loads of great things.
Urango’s been in multiple finals. She knows how to get it done. Hartong was still adjusting to the beach (and snow, and four-on-four) last year, and she still more than doubled her prize money from 2018. I don’t think they’re ready to win an AVP just yet, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them making a push to a Sunday here and there.
Want to know why I believe in Traci Callahan? Because Mykel Jenkins, Tri Bourne’s trainer, believes in Callahan, and he hardly believes in anybody. When he compliments someone, it’s a very real, genuine compliment, and he was enamored with Callahan’s work ethic. She spent her off-season working with Evie Matthews, and was rewarded with a fifth at the Siem Reap two-star with Crissy Jones, where they beat eventual gold medalists Sara Hughes and Lauren Fendrick. This is just the start for Callahan.
Speaking of Jones, she’s an easy one to peg for this list. Currently a graduate student at Cal Poly, where she finished her college career after playing indoors at Washington, Jones was one of the most delightful stories of the season in 2019. She made one heck of an end-of-year push with Zana Muno (she’d be on here too, but I don’t know if they’re playing together, and Muno’s stock is already awfully high). A third in Hermosa Beach was followed by three consecutive top-10 finishes, all of which preceded the aforementioned fifth place in Cambodia.
Delaney Mewhirter/Katie Spieler (Yeah, yeah, I know …)