SANDCAST Mailbag: Who are the top five blockers, defenders, and more fan questions

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Tri Bourne-Travis Mewhirter-SANDCAST volleyball 4/29/2020

Typically, I’d be a bit neurotic by now. Short on sleep. Distracted. Mind ping-ponging back and forth, looking at the draw, then looking again – did it change did it change?

This, of course, is not the typical pre-AVP Huntington Beach qualifier eve. This is just a Wednesday like any other in the off-season: no events on the foreseeable horizon. Nothing specific to train for.

Sleep comes easy.

In such a strangely uncertain sports world, Tri and I opened up SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, to fan questions, and we did our best to answer, or at least opine, on them. A few I’ve written our responses to. Because nobody wants to read 3,000 words of me answering questions, I limited this piece to 1,000-ish words. You can find our answers to the rest on our episode.

Question one: Who are some younger players to watch out for (not obvious ones like Eric Beranek, etc.) Where do you think the season will begin? Where have you been training? (and we know you have, wink)

This is always such a difficult list to compile for the men, because there really aren’t many youngsters who would willingly commit to beach over indoor. Kawika Shoji discussed that very thing last week on SANDCAST, and the list of reasons why is nearly endless, with financial security being the most obvious. However, there are a handful: Tim Brewster, John Schwengel, Miles Partain, among a couple others. Partain is the obvious candidate here. At just 18 years old and still in high school, he already has a fifth-place AVP finish to his name, at AVP Chicago with Paul Lotman. He made the final three AVP main draws of the season — Manhattan, Chicago, Hawai’i — and trained the entire off-season under coach Tyler Hildebrand and our top national teams. He’s a can’t-miss up-and-comer.

The women, meanwhile, are nearly endless. Peruse the top two courts at any of the top 15 or so college programs and you have AVP main draw talents. The names I’ll point you to, however, are these: Savvy Simo and Abby Van Winkle (UCLA), Alaina Chacon and Molly McBain (Florida State), Hailey Harward (USC), Brook Bauer and Deahna Kraft (Pepperdine), Julia Scoles and Morgan Martin (Hawai’i), Delaynie Maple and Megan Kraft (committed to USC), Torrey Van Winden (Cal Poly), Reka Orsi Toth and Iya Lindahl (LMU), Sunniva Helland-Hansen and Carly Perales (Stetson), Dani Alvarez (TCU), Kristen Nuss and Claire Coppola (LSU), Mima Mirkovic (Cal).

Of the bunch — and there are so many others I didn’t list — my breakout selection would be Simo, UCLA’s dynamic court one defender and unquestioned leader of the team I would have bet a fair amount of American dollars to win the National Championship. She has all the potential to become this year’s version of a Sarah Sponcil, who made the finals in her first AVP event, or Zana Muno, another Bruin who made an AVP semifinal in her rookie season.

Question two: Should the AVP start a Dino Division for players post 50 who still want to compete 3-4 times per year? Golf has masters, AVP has dino?

I thought this question was hysterical in the best of ways. Idealistically, this sounds great. Who wouldn’t want to watch Tim Hovland yap with Sinjin Smith, while the always-quiet Mike Dodd digs balls and Randy Stoklos yells about how he was the first person to ever hand set? I’m game. But it is, let’s all be honest here, a bit quixotic. The AVP does well enough to put on eight events for the best, most explosive players in the world. When compared to the major sports, there’s barely a niche market.

Would there really be a market for old men with big mouths and small verticals?

The Dino is such a great event because it’s the only one of its kind, and it’s given a shot of life with younger players such as Taylor Crabb to help carry their older counterparts. It’s fun, competitive, and a little heartwarming.

Golf’s Champions Tour works because guys like Tom Watson and Fred Couples can still compete at close to the same level they could when they were in their primes. There’s no impact on their bodies, and the level of play is still astonishingly high. Watson, for example, finished second at The Open Championship in 2009, losing in a four-hole playoff, 26 years after his most recent major win, when he was 60 years old.

I have no doubt that Sinjin can still ball. But could he get out there with Stoklos and take Jake Gibb and Crabb to three sets in the finals of the Manhattan Beach Open? Doubtful.

I think p1440 nailed an older-aged event when they hosted a four-on-four match featuring two legends and two current pros on either team. There’s certainly a market and space for something whimsical like that to happen a few times per year.

Until then, keep the Dino the great, annual event that it is.

Question 3: Will there be a new BVB book (got my copy signed by Tri in Hamburg)?

Yes. Maybe. I can’t tell you for sure. But all I can say is that there could, potentially, be a possibility of an upcoming beach volleyball book to be released in early summer.

Until then, you could always scoop up a copy of We Were Kings to keep you busy.

Question 4: Rate your top 5 male defenders/blockers internationally.

This was such a fun one to discuss. Everybody keeps talking about how much parity there is on the world tour, and with good reason. Attempting to nail down the top five defenders is, to me, like trying to rank my favorite golf courses in Myrtle Beach – they’re all the best courses.

The top five blockers came a little easier. We decided on:

  1. Anders Mol, Norway
  2. Oleg Stoyanovskiy, Russia
  3. Phil Dalhausser, United States
  4. Alison Cerutti, Brazil
  5. Evandro Goncalves, Brazil

Honorable mentions included: Paolo Nicolai, Italy; Michal Bryl, Poland; Jake Gibb, United States; Tri Bourne, United States; Julius Thole, Germany.

The defenders weren’t so clear-cut. It’s impossible to rank them because they’re all playing behind blockers of varying sizes and abilities. But we wound up pinning it down to:

  1. Taylor Crabb, United States (we are prepared to duke it out from six feet away with those who disagree)
  2. Christian Sorum, Norway
  3. Clemens Wickler, Germany
  4. Viacheslav Krasilnikov, Russia
  5. Grzegorz Fijalek, Poland

Honorable mentions included: Alvaro Filho, Brazil; Bruno Schmidt, Brazil; Adrian Carambula, Italy; Nick Lucena, United States; Daniele Lupo, Italy.

Thanks again to all the fan questions! To continue sending them in, shoot us an email to: sandcastpodcast@gmail.com.

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