HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — Sarah Schermerhorn is a self-described “one step at a time kinda girl.”
Good thing, too, because she’s playing a sport where being a one step at a time kinda girl isn’t so much voluntary as it is mandatory. Schedules are constantly in flux. Partner movements leave both fans and players alike baffled. Point systems vary. It’ll keep you on your toes, beach volleyball.
And if there is a single phrase that could properly summate Sarah Schermerhorn’s 2021, well, it would be one step at a time.
After three seasons playing with just a single partner in Kim Hildreth, Schermerhorn hit the free agency market hard in 2021, competing with nearly 20 different partners. She became an adopted member of the Aurora Davis family. Played under the AVP Atlanta lights with Megan Rice. Took a spontaneous trip to Itapema, Brazil, with Corinne Quiggle, after Quiggle’s normal partner, Allie Wheeler, was sidelined with back spasms. And then that spontaneous trip led to another, in Doha for the finals of the King of the Court Series, which, in the end, brought Schermerhorn back to the partner and career stability she had long enjoyed, committing to compete with Quiggle for the 2022 season.
“Before last year, I had only ever played with one person,” Schermerhorn said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “I played with 16 to 19 different people throughout the year, all kinds of different tournaments. Just one-offs here and there. That was fun for me because that was something I hadn’t done, play with a lot of different people. I got a taste of ‘Oh who’s playing? I gotta ask somebody! I don’t have somebody to fall back on.’
“It’s nice to have done that, but it’s nice to be back in a spot where I have a solid partner where we’re very much on the same page and we’re playing well. We’re having fun.”
It is not difficult to see why. Schermerhorn and Quiggle began the 2022 season as well as virtually any team in the world, climbing from the 13 seed in the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Tlaxcala Challenger to finish ninth. On the way, they knocked off the top seed in the tournament in Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon and upset the eventual fourth-place Brazilians Taiana Lima and Hege Almeida Dos Santos.
“Our focus is that it’s really been on us. Our coach incorporates a lot of mental training in our practice, and the main focus is always on what we’re doing. It’s a good team. Everybody’s on the same page. We trust the process. It’s just nice that we can all be on the same page there. Our focus was just on what we could do,” Schermerhorn said. “We were just trying to step on the court and have a good time. That was a main focus: We trust in our training, trust in our coaching, and being able to step on the court and trust your partner and everything they’re doing and being able to communicate.
“I just think that’s been a big part of our game and an important part for being on the same page and hopefully that translates on camera. And winning is fun too. Even when we stepped off the court after having played Spain [they lost 18-21, 21-19, 17-19], we had fun. We were still having fun.”
With the removal of the country-quota system, which limited federations to just four teams per tournament for the previous four years, there will be plenty of fun to be had for Schermerhorn and Quiggle this season. Had a country quota still been in place, they wouldn’t have even been able to enter Tlaxcala, much less take a ninth. And now that they can get into virtually any event they want, save for the Elite 16s — for now, anyway — Schermerhorn has to remain on her toes even more than she did a year ago.
Will they compete in AVP Austin or a Challenger in Doha?
Does it make sense to compete in Futures?
What do they prioritize: AVP or international?
They don’t know. Maybe they don’t need to know. They’re comfortable staying in flux, those two, more than most anybody you’ll meet, even in beach volleyball, a sport for the spontaneous.
“I think our focus is international right now,” Schermerhorn said with a noncommittal shrug. “And just kinda see where that takes us. But we’re two tournaments out.”
Two tournaments out and a long season to go. Already, however, it is notable to take stock of Schermerhorn’s improvement from just two years ago. Though she’s played volleyball most of her life, competing at Elon University before playing professionally overseas for a few seasons, she’s only been on the beach for five years.
“I’m working with the same coach that introduced me to the sport when I moved to Florida and that’s a big part of it,” she said. “Having someone who really knows the beach who can break your indoor habits and who can instill the right mechanics, right mindset, it’s a big difference, especially when you’re coming later in the game. You want to build your game and you want to do it right the first time.”
So she’ll continue building, one practice at a time, one tournament at a time.
She’s a one step at a time kinda girl, after all.
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