That’s it. That’s all Tim Bomgren and Taylor Crabb had for practice prior to AVP Austin. Crabb needed an emergency fill-in after Jake Gibb broke his toe. To the lefty from Minnesota he turned, despite never having played with Bomgren before, despite never having played with a lefty before.
Not that any of this is unusual for Bomgren, this week’s guest on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.
He lives in Minnesota, yet is one of the best blockers in the country. While many in Southern California are training four or five days a week in April, sometimes using sand socks because it’s too hot, Bomgren is shoveling snow, sometimes using sand socks because it’s too cold. The only other time Bomgren had made an AVP semifinal was in New Orleans of 2015, in which he and his brother, Brian, practiced for maybe two weeks prior.
Sounds about right.
“We talked about blocking calls and all that, we talked about who’s taking middle, who’s making the call when someone’s serving,” Bomgren said on SANDCAST. “Taylor and Jake run a push to the outside – high, middle, low. Most teams do the same thing and I do the same thing with Brian. We talked about what his calls are, what my calls are and where to err.
“I prefer the ball to be further inside than outside and Taylor’s the same way. Talking those things out makes a huge difference in how the game flows.”
Whatever adjustments Bomgren and Crabb made, they worked. In a 16-team draw that featured a fully-loaded field, in which the only absent American was the one for whom Bomgren filled in, they made the finals.
Every team on their road to the finals had made at least the semifinals in the past year.
“It was extremely difficult,” Bomgren said. “I personally had to take myself out of the play, just kind of take it step by step, and I’m not trying to look at ‘I need to win three more matches today.’ It’s ‘I need to pass this ball, where it needs to be, so Taylor can set me.’ It was breaking it down for me, when we’re serving and receiving, taking it step by step and doing what you can, seeing how the plays turn out.”
Most turned out quite well. Some didn’t.
They lost their second match, against Ryan Doherty and Billy Allen, a match in which Bomgren sprained his ankle, though he made sure to note on SANDCAST that the sprain was not the reason they lost. Allen and Doherty played better.
That was it.
“In the first game, we controlled the match, we controlled our side of the net, and what happened was game two and game three we had a slow start, and that was largely due to what we did on our side of the net,” Bomgren said. “They were things we can control. So we tried to refocus that, and credit to Billy and Ryan, they played phenomenal volleyball. They ended up controlling the last two games and, ultimately, the match.
“We tried to refocus and we kept things simple on our side. Control our side of the net, do what we can do, and not do too much.”
And in not doing too much, Bomgren, ironically, on a bum ankle, with a partner he had never played with, after just a week or so of touching a ball, in heat that is entirely foreign to his native Minnesota, did more than he ever has on the AVP Tour. He and Crabb won their next four matches, including the always-alluring Crabb on Crabb quarterfinal matchup, including a three-set, nearly two-hour grinder in a rain-soaked semifinal against Reid Priddy and Jeremy Casebeer.
Just Tim being Tim.
“I think I played once and had four drilling sessions,” he said of his preparation, laughing. “Brian and I are both the type of players, and we’re very gracious for it, but we’re not the type of players who need 1,000 reps a day to stay fresh and stay on top of our game. We kind of pick it up as we go.
“Ultimately, what it comes down to, you get into that game situation, especially on the AVP Tour, and it doesn’t matter. If you’re focused, you know what you’ve been practicing, you know what you’ve been doing. Once I’m focused, and I’m into the game, I’ve done it 1,000 times. Once you get into that game mindset, everything comes back to you.”
All the way from Minnesota to the finals.