SANDCAST: Answering beach volleyball’s questions in a year with no shortage of them

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SANDCAST 9/30/2020-Tri Bourne
Tri Bourne

October is, somehow, just one day away. Tomorrow.

Where summer went, if it ever even arrived, who knows. At this time a year ago, I was in Bonaire with the aptly named Kyle Friend — or on my way home from it, enjoying the 20-some-hour journey from that beautiful island to California — competing in what was, on the calendar, the final event of the 2019 season.

For most beach volleyball players, there was no 2020 season. Just a few random tournaments sprinkled about: Three AVP Champions Cups, Waupaca, an AVP Next Gold in Atlantic City.

That about sums it up.

It made for a bit of a boring summer, yet it also provided no dearth of questions about what is to come.

As we do at the close of every season, Tri Bourne and I opened our most recent episode up to fan questions, all of which were answered on the podcast, a few of which I’ll write about below.

“So, what’s this secret event Tri’s been training for?”

Ah, yes, the double-secret event — an Animal House reference, in case you missed it — in Hermosa Beach that Bourne alluded to on social media was the fun, and competitive, season-ender many needed.

It was a collaboration event, what can happen when SANDCAST and McKibbin Brothers collide, along with the help of the always-trash talking Trevor Crabb. All of us wanted to put on some kind of event this year, however big or small. Tri and I talked about it, Tri and the McKibbins talked about it, Tri and Trevor talked about it. We did the 2020 thing and hopped on a Zoom call, deciding on an 8-man King of the Beach style tournament, delegating various responsibilities: I would write and get some media love for it, the McKibbins would produce their video wizardry, Trevor would fill out the field.

We told no one, other than the players and the sponsors to whom we reached out, in an effort to keep the crowd as small as possible. In the end, we cobbled up a few grand in prize money, and a field that would have commanded quite the scene at 16th street in Hermosa Beach: Trevor Crabb, Taylor Crabb, Chaim Schalk, Tri Bourne, Stafford Slick, Casey Patterson, Avery Drost, and, uh, me (I was a backup to the backup to the backup, earning the somewhat self-proclaimed nickname, Rudy, when I was thrown in last minute).

We agreed not to push out any information prior to the McKibbins releasing their videos, so that’s all you get for now, with the exception of Ed Chan’s photos here. However, be sure to check out their YouTube channel, as videos from the event will drop on Thursday, Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday.

Avery Drost
Avery Drost

Who is a younger player you see as being successful one day? Someone other than Eric Beranek and Andy Benesh?

This one was easy, and it also answered a drove of other questions on a similar topic: Miles Partain.

In the words of Joe Flacco, he’s elite.

His Rookie of the Year campaign in 2019, and his seemingly Cinderella dance through the AVP Champions Cup with Ty Loomis was no fluke. He’s no Cinderella.

He’s one of the most gifted players in the country.

Normally, yes, I’d confess to some hyperbole there. I like to pump players up. But I had the same conversation with Adam Roberts about the 18-year-old lefty. Roberts, who has seen arguably as much beach volleyball as anyone currently in the sport, pointed to Partain as a bona fide contender to medal in Paris 2024, certainly Los Angeles 2028. It’s a long way out, yes, and so much can happen between now and then, but the point underscoring that prediction is this: Partain is as talented, if not more, than anybody really realizes.

He’s also humble, a consummate teammate, and a hard worker. He films every practice, digs into it, makes the improvements, then does it again.

He’s 18, but he’s as good on defense — or split-blocking — as anybody outside of Taylor Crabb and Nick Lucena.

Do you know of any players who have given beach volleyball up, and started their professional working careers?

A lot of this is conjecture, but there are a few players who have expressed, publicly, an interest in moving out of beach volleyball. Ryan Doherty is certainly not going to be playing full-time anymore, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops in for a few events here or there — Manhattan, Hermosa, Huntington, perhaps. Loomis, too, may be on his way out, or taking on a lesser role, though who knows if Partain reinvigorated the 41-year-old after a string of good finishes in the AVP Champions Cup.

Similar mysteries remain with Chase Frishman, who’s currently on an existential journey living out of his car, road tripping around the country. Mike Brunsting, too, may be more focused on being a good dad and moving into a role outside of beach volleyball.

For the women, the question is less about who is going to retire and more about how certain players will respond to pregnancies. Everybody is different — Kerri Walsh Jennings, for example, nary had a blip — so it will be an interesting storyline to see how Betsi Flint, Irene Pollock, Lauren Fendrick, Lane Carico, Kaya Marciniak, Kim DiCello — did I miss anyone? — respond to toting a new kiddo around events.

Ryan Doherty
Ryan Doherty chases a dig down/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

What would you change about the Olympic qualifying process?

Fun question! Also the last that we will cover in writing. For the rest, you can listen to the episode or watch it on YouTube. 

The one element of the Olympic qualifying process every American, and especially the AVP, would want is for the USA to have a local qualifying system. A one-off trial, however, doesn’t seem to be the best, or fairest, way to do it (ask Randy Stoklos, who rolled his ankle minutes before his semifinal in 1996).

So, what if we did a half-and-half system? One team qualifies via the FIVB, the other qualifies via the AVP, with certain caveats? We can’t entirely ignore the International Olympic Committee and FIVB, so both teams would have to prove themselves on the World Tour: Both of our qualifying teams would have to be in the top 16 in the world.

Our No. 1 on the World Tour would qualify. As for the second spot, it would go to the team with the highest number of AVP points within the Olympic qualifying period. It would incentivize teams to stay home more, keeping the AVPs as chock full of talent as possible, while also making it a logistical chess match of which tournaments to travel to and which to not.

It’s the best we came up with in five minutes, anyway, but I think it would be fun.

What do you think?

Let us know.

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