It was the running joke in the player’s tent of AVP New York: Nobody really wanted to play any of the teams on the bracket. Of the seven teams Tim Bomgren would end up playing in New York, five included Olympians, and the other two were teams currently pushing for Tokyo 2020.
“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Bomgren said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “You look at the bracket and you’re like ‘Ok, I’m not really happy about playing any of these teams.’ It’s just one of those.”
Bomgren and his new partner, Troy Field, the social media maven with the big jumps and the pink hat, can officially be labeled as one of those teams nobody would particularly enjoy playing, in large part because of talent, but also because balls that should go down just don’t, as if they’ve got the remote control to gravity and have found a way to keep Wilson off the sand for just a tad longer.
“Team never say die,” Camryn Irwin labeled them on the Amazon Prime livestream of New York, where Field and Bomgren produced highlights of viral potential like most teams produce regular side outs.
“We both know we’re going to be as scrappy as we possibly can and we’re just going to work our tails off,” Bomgren said. “We might not be the smoothest side out players, we might not be the best setters, we might not be the best servers, but we’re going to scratch and claw our way to get whatever points we can. So far it’s worked out pretty well.”
Don’t listen to him. Not even for a second. That’s the Minnesotan in him. By now you know Bomgren’s story: Minnesota born and raised, playing every sport there is to play. Picked up volleyball in college but was so darn athletic it didn’t matter he had a late start. Not all that much different from his partner, really.
Field, too, had a late introduction to the sport and initially, sure, but by now both are deeply skilled enough that it’s the combination of a scrappiness begat from an initial need for it blended with a bona fide beach skill set that makes them one of the most exciting teams to watch. And one of the most consistently successful teams on tour.
Without a single competitive match under their belt, they made the semifinals in Huntington Beach. They won their first match over Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos, two Mount Rushmore-worthy candidates for their respective countries. They beat champs in Ed Ratledge and Rafu Rodriguez, and future Seattle winners Jeremy Casebeer and Chaim Schalk.
Any thoughts of it being a honeymoon phase were quickly silenced when they did the same thing the following tournament in Austin, then slugged their way through the gauntlet of New York, where they made their first final, falling to Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena but not before gifting the Amazon Prime staff a coterie of highlights for the internet to enjoy.
“Both him and I just love the game and love the competition,” Bomgren said. “Getting along with your partner and having fun with your partner is so key. I hope you guys can tell it, but Troy and I are having an absolute blast out there. It’s making some of our success feel that much easier because we’re having so much fun.”
He still feels like an underdog, Bomgren. Partly because he’s still in Minnesota. Partly because, I mean, what the hell, he’s not shooting for the Olympics. Yet here he is anyway, grinding through matches against the world’s elite. He acknowledges that he knows he belongs, that it doesn’t really matter to him if he has an armada of coaches pounding balls at him five days a week. He just doesn’t need that many reps. And besides, he’s got his son, Brody, an affable two-year-old who wants nothing more than to play volley in the basement with dad after work.
Not the most traditional program, but when has Bomgren’s success been traditional, anyway?
“One of the things that’s eye-opening is when you finally see the success,” he said. “Getting that success is never easy. You have to work your tail off, and that’s kind of my game. I’m not the best passer, not the best setter, not the best hitter, but controlling the things I can control has been huge for me and I’m doing that better than I have before and compiling those things together has allowed me to play at the top level and make it to where I want to be. I’m ready to really play at the top level.”