If it works out, great. If it doesn’t? We can always just go back home, to Poland. That was, in short, Piotr Marciniak’s mindset when, in January of 2012, he decided to move from Poland to Florida. He had been talking to a friend, who mentioned that Marciniak could go to school in Florida and play on the United States’ famed professional tour, the AVP.

“The decision itself back then wasn’t that difficult,” Marciniak said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “I wanted to do a lot of trips in my life and I said ‘OK, what am I going to do if it doesn’t work? If it doesn’t work out I’m just going to come back.’”

Eight years later, Marciniak remains planted firmly in the United States. He has a wife, Karolina — known to most as Kaya — and a 15-month-old son who is, funnily enough, the “only American in the family,” Marciniak joked. And, of course, as it goes with any great American family, there’s a dog, a golden retriever that Marcinak kiddingly referred to as his emotional support dog.

Suffice it to say: The move from Poland to America worked splendidly well — and it worked fast. Just eight months into the move, Marciniak qualified for his first AVP tournament, in Cincinnati with Shane Donohue. By the end of the 2014 season, he and Kaya had established themselves as two of the best players on the nascent NVL, with Kaya making six finals in as many tournaments that year, and Piotr winning one of his own while making another three semifinals.

There was no going back. Not anytime soon, anyway.

He and Kaya would combine to win 20 NVL tournaments, racking up the accolades en masse: five NVL Best Offensive Player awards, one Best Setter (Kaya), two MVPs (also Kaya), and two Team of the Year awards (both won in 2016).

They tinkered with the notion of moving to California, like most in the professional beach volleyball community. But Florida was home. It was there they had established themselves. It was where they were going to stay.

“We said ‘Let’s try to make this happen and still play in Florida and domestically on the AVP. Let’s find a house here in Florida and a job,’” said Marciniak, who is 33. “We had a couple opportunities so we just decided to stay here.”

Just as their decision to move from Poland proved prescient, so, too, did their decision to remain in Florida. Marciniak picked up Rafu Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican with one of the most formidable serves on the AVP Tour as well as some of the sweetest hands. By their fourth tournament together, in 2017, they made their first career AVP semifinal, in Hermosa Beach.

But with Rodriguez starting a family of his own in California, moving beach volleyball back a few priorities in his life, the two split. Marciniak turned to a menagerie of partners — Ty Loomis, Eric Zaun, Chase Frishman, John Hyden, Chaim Schalk, Mark Burik — while Rodriguez enjoyed immense success with Ed Ratledge.

Now, however, with Rodriguez back in Florida, where he is closer to his family in Puerto Rico, the two are back together, partnering once more for the AVP Champions Cup.

“We’ve been playing a bunch of tournaments here, and we got the chance to play together,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been playing pretty good and it just makes sense for both of us now. I don’t think there’s a better explanation than that.”

There is more to this partnership than volleyball, too. They’re both fathers now, Rafu to his 2-year-old boy Nico and nine-month daughter, Arianna, while Piotr has his 15-month son and “emotional support” golden. And, yes, the location helps.

Thus far in 2020, they’ve been able to play in four tournaments across Florida.

“I don’t think anyone on the planet has played four tournaments this year,” Marciniak said, laughing.

They’ll have at least three more these next few weeks, flying back and forth from Florida to California for each tournament in the AVP Cup. It was an easy decision for both of them not to remain in Long Beach. They both have families, jobs, a life outside of volleyball. Just as they were in 2017, they’re in the same phase of life again.

“Rafu is almost the perfect partner for me,” Marciniak said. “He’s easy to play with, and again, the fact that he moved to Florida just makes sense to try the season again.”

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