The look that Brittany Hochevar gave on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter could bore a hole straight through a human soul.
The discussion had turned to partnership dynamics, and how it was with Hochevar and her partner, Emily Day. Day, it turns out, is the more organized one –- there is always a more organized one –- and I said something along the lines of Hochevar just sort of following along from there.
Just sort of following along?
Brittany Hochevar doesn’t simply follow along. She gets after it.
You can look at her workouts on Instagram or her website. They have a ballistic focus and can be slightly terrifying, though Hochevar also blends this with a focus on mindfulness and equanimity. Stillness.
It’s a unique approach, one she labels as “all in but also all out,” and it’s also inarguably working.
In 2017, at the age of 36, Hochevar won three AVPs and took third in another two. Her 14th year on Tour was, crazy as this might sound, her breakout.
“I feel like I’m in my prime,” she said. “It’s wild. I can do stuff –- wisdom, timing, that’s another piece. There’s a different timing to things. It’s fun to see that slowdown. When you arrive you just know it and sometimes that’s at 36.”
Who would have guessed she would have arrived here, at 36, in her 14th season, at the top of the game?
Of all people, Hochevar wouldn’t have been one of them. Before 2016, Hochevar’s career had been a Sisyphean one, rolling that boulder all the way to the top, only to see it tumble back down.
“I was that 13th player on a 12-man roster type of kid,” she said. “It’s my blessing and my curse.”
At Long Beach State, she replaced Misty May as the setter, took the 49ers to a pair of Final Fours and a national title match, losing in the final.
In a three-year stint with the USA women’s national team from 2002-2004, she worked her way onto the roster, only to be the first alternate in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
In 2009, her 51st event on the AVP Tour, she made a final with Jen Fopma, losing in three sets to Dianne DeNecochea and Carrie Dodd. It would be seven years until she took one home. But what a platform on which to do it: The 2016 Manhattan Beach Open.
Hochevar’s first career victory came on the sport’s biggest stage, with a plaque on the Manhattan Beach Pier to prove it.
“Bout time,” May texted her.
“Sometimes,” Hochevar said, “timing is funny.”
Somehow, she had done something exceptionally few athletes across any sport have ever been able to do. Hochevar had begun to reach her athletic peak at age 35. She opened the 2017 season with a win in Huntington Beach and then won back-to-back championships in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan again.
By season’s end, only one team had won multiple events on the AVP Tour: Hochevar and Day. Together, they had flipped the script, broken the narrative. Had Hollywood been writing the 2017 season, with Kerri Walsh-Jennings forgoing the AVP and April Ross in partner limbo, it would have been time for the youngsters to take over.
Oh no. Not yet.
Hochevar had fallen in love with the game again, “fallen in love with passing again,” she said. All those years of coming so close to the peak, of being the 13th on the 12 man roster, of rolling that boulder so high, only for it to tumble back down, had paid off. All those years in Puerto Rico and Spain and Turkey and Siberia had paid off. All of those ballistic workouts and pilates and meditating and taking care of her body had paid off.
On her arms are tattoos. “Here” written on the left, “I am” on the right.
At 36 years young, here Hochevar is.
Sometimes, you arrive, and you just know it.
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