There was a time — a very brief time in the middle of a jet-setting, globe-trotting season — where Kelley Larsen had the correct count of how many tournaments she and Emily Stockman had played at that point in the year.
“We did count at one point,” Larsen, an Olympic hopeful with Stockman, said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “We did a certain amount in a row, we did — what was it? — 10 back to back in a row. Ten in a row. I think that was our longest stretch. I don’t know how many tournaments it was this year. I think I lost count halfway through.”
It’s easy to do when you’ve had a year like Larsen and Stockman. The official count, at the moment, with two more tournaments to play, is 19 tournaments in all — five AVP, 13 FIVB, one NORCECA. It has included competition in 13 countries, with a third trip to China coming up next week and a first to Mexico a week after that.
“LAX is our home,” Larsen said, laughing. “It was a lot of travel this year. We were gone six or seven weeks straight at one point and then before and after that we would be at a tournament overseas then come back for a tournament, be home for a few days, and we’d be back and forth. So ever since May, we’ve been gone the majority of the time.”
They knew they were getting themselves into this, Larsen and Stockman. When they both broke it off with their respective partners prior to the onset of the Tokyo race, they knew that international volleyball was the priority, that the Olympics were the goal, and that being anywhere from moderately to severely jet lagged would be the new default.
“I knew her work ethic was already incredible,” Stockman, a Colorado native, said. “Every time I was in the gym she was there, so I knew she was working hard. But to sit down and be like ‘Our goals all align,’ that was huge for me.”
For the most part, everything has seemed to align for Stockman and Larsen this season, both on the court and off. On the court, they won an enormously valuable silver medal at the Warsaw Four-Star and then followed it up with a win at AVP Seattle, Stockman’s first AVP victory. Off the court, their quiet yet warm, independent but caring personalities meshed perfectly. During downtime on the road, Stockman would wander for a good coffee shop; Larsen would take a walk. At home, Stockman retreats to the mountains, Larsen, somehow, still to the beach.
And then they’re back at it, on the beach with coach Evie Matthews or in the gym with their new trainer, an ass-kicking, no-nonsense man recommended by Matthews.
“There’s a lot of teams that sort of started breaking down a little bit and we felt good throughout the year,” Larsen said. “I think a lot of that is due to what we were doing in the gym, just conditioning wise. And all of our training was specific to you and to volleyball. Every movement we do in the gym is very related to volleyball and has a purpose for why we’re doing it.
“His workouts are killer. You get your butt kicked and you don’t lift a single weight. It’s bizarre. It’s definitely helped us conditioning wise in matches this year.”
They have but a few matches left, in China for an upcoming Three-Star in Qinzhou and then a Four-Star in Chetumal, Mexico. Then Stockman will take to the mountains, Larsen to the beach and planning her wedding with Manhattan Beach semifinalist Bill Kolinske. And then, before they know it, season will begin again. And they’ll be back on planes, back to their passports getting tattooed regularly, back in their new home-away-from-home: LAX.
“We’re like the Brazilians now,” Stockman said. “Just nonstop.”