SANDCAST with Karissa Cook: Old fart, hood rat, downright effective volleyball

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Karissa Cook gets down low to keep the ball in play/Allen Szto photography

Call it old fart volleyball. Call it hood rat volleyball. Call it dirty or creative or funny or crafty or whimsical or whatever other name you’d like to label Karissa Cook’s decidedly awesome style of scoring points on a volleyball court. But you must, at the very least, call it this: Effective.

Effective enough that Cook and her partner, Katie Spieler, scored an invite to the AVP’s final event of the year, the invitational in Hawai’i, where Spieler and Cook played their college ball.

Effective enough to make her first career Sunday, at the AVP’s opening stop in Austin. Effective enough to avoid the qualifiers all year — “I had to do some beautiful mind calculations for New York,” she said, laughing — for the first time of her young career.

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” she said of her partnership with Spieler, last week’s guest on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “We’ve just been playing together and the honeymoon phase hasn’t worn off two years later.”

And Spieler’s contagious energy continues to rub off on Cook. After Chicago, where they finished seventh, Cook was about ready to shut it down. Time for rest and recovery. Off-season things. But the season wasn’t over. Not yet. There was a NORCECA qualifier to play, and an energetic – always energetic – and enthusiastic – always enthusiastic – partner who wanted to play.

“I was like an angry cat,” Cook said, laughing. “We had played so many tournaments but we had so much fun, per usual. I 100 percent always love volleyball as soon as my feet touch the sand. You go and it’s the best decision you’ve ever made.”

Seems so. Cook and Spieler breezed through the qualifier, and now they have few events on their 2018 schedule, to go along with the unexpected invite to Hawaii.

“Katie was like ‘Let’s do it!’” Cook said laughing. “And I was like ‘Ok, fine.’ I just grom onto her and make her carry me with her wherever we go.”

It appears that really isn’t too far from the case. Earlier this year, Spieler made the move from Santa Barbara to Hermosa Beach, cutting down on an obscene amount of drive time, able to get in with the top training groups in the country. Cook recently did the same, leaving her post as a Stanford beach coach, moving from Palo Alto to Manhattan Beach.

Of course, some things are a bit different between the two as well. Cook is also moving to be closer with her brother, Brian, the hilarious and viral star of Instagram this season, with whom she’s helping found a start-up, a sort of “Uber for bartenders,” she said.

Stanford kids.

But mostly, she knows that, while beach volleyball is friendly to the body, she cannot play forever. Her window as an elite athlete is narrowing over the next five to 10 years. Coaching will be there forever. Gromming onto Spieler, qualifying to play events in countries she’d otherwise never visit, is here now.

“I could have stayed there and been a padawan forever and been super happy,” Cook said of Stanford. “I adored (coaching) and I loved it and I’ll always be super grateful for it, and I do see myself going back and coaching but I wanted to really go for it for a couple years at least.”

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