Last November, brothers Riley and Maddison McKibbin, in partnership with SharpeVision Modern Lasik, put on a 4 vs. 4 beach volleyball tournament on 16th Street in Hermosa Beach. They had an eye on the future.
SharpeVision CEO Cory Salter flew out a women’s team and a men’s team from Texas to compete against two teams per gender composed of players living and training in California. With California still under some of its COVID restrictions at the time, the competition happened in front of only a smattering of fans, and the McKibbins and SharpeVision didn’t market the event at all, instead focusing on creating a good experience for the players and a high-quality video product.
But safe to say, all aspects of that event went well enough that the squad — SharpeVision, Salter, and the McKibbin Bros. — assembled once again with more ambitious plans for 2021. Their combined brainstorming and execution resulted in the impending 4-Man by McK and SharpeVision:
Texas vs. Cali, or the 4-Man ATX for short, taking place Saturday at Moontower Saloon in Austin.
The format of this one-day event is admittedly a bit complex, but for the hundreds of Austin beach volleyball fans who purchased tickets, these are the important things:
Five Olympians, 11 AVP title winners, 12 hours of volleyball, and one rocking after party.
There are three pro teams per gender. On the men’s side, it’s Team California (Troy Field, Casey Patterson, Chase Budinger, and Jeremey Casebeer), Team Hawaii (Taylor Crabb, Trevor Crabb, Tri Bourne, and Taylor Sander), and Team SharpeVision (Rafaa Quesada, Bruno Amorim, Peter Connole, Jerel Deacon, Taylor Hughes, Lila Tucker, and Eric Beranek).
The women’s field features Team California (Olympic gold-medalist April Ross, Geena Urango, Macy Jerger, and Karissa Cook), Team Midwest (Falyn Fonoimoana, Corinne Quiggle, Kristen Nuss, and Taryn Kloth), and Team SharpeVision (Katie Dickens, Lauren Dickson, Angela Bensend, Taylor Nutterfield, and Jennifer Keddy).
Don’t get too hung up on the team names. Yes, everyone is aware that Taylor Sander is not from Hawaii, and of Team Midwest, only Taryn Kloth, a South Dakota native, hails from the eponymous region.
The two SharpeVision teams feature a lot of the top Austin-area Texas players, including many athletes who made the trip out to Hermosa Beach for the 2020 Invitational last fall. Other Texas athletes will have a chance to compete as well, but they’re really going to have to earn it if they have ambitions of claiming a share of the $20,000 prize purse.
On Saturday morning, three Texas teams — one each from Austin, Dallas, and Houston — will compete in a preliminary round for a chance to advance to the semifinals where the three pro teams will be waiting. To even make it to Moontower, however, players had to make the cut to get on their city’s team. Dallas Sand Volleyball chose its representatives by way of a qualifier at the Sandbar Cantina on October 9, with Carol Grasso, Emily Holombek, Katie McCutcheon, and Laura Schaudt winning the women’s competition and Oleksiy “Alex” Gutor, Kyle Blackburn, Andrey Diachkov, Thomas Hurst, and TJ Staples taking the men’s title and a berth to the main event.
In Houston, instead of hosting a qualifier tournament, Third Coast Volleyball hand picked a dream team, with the help of Houston Baptist Cameron Sitler. The Houston men’s team features Roscoe “Ross” Nelms, Riley Wohlschlaeger, Philip Andrews, Alex Kammermeier, Ryan Walker, and Lennart Huijbers. Keelie Arneson, Katya Silveira, Tori Hinojosa Just, Alyssa Enneking, and Lindsey Kammermeier make up the Houston women’s squad.
A 512 Beach-hosted tournament on Friday night will determine the two Austin teams in attendance.
If your brain operates better in spreadsheet form, here you go:
|Chase Budinger||Tri Bourne||Bruno Amorim||Kyle Blackburn||Philip Andrews||TBD|
|Jeremy Casebeer||Taylor Crabb||Eric Beranek||Andrei Diachkov||Lennart Huijbers|
|Troy Field||Trevor Crabb||Peter Connole||Alex Gutor||Alex Kammermeier|
|Casey Patterson||Taylor Sander||Jerel Deacon||Thomas Hurst||Roscoe Nelms|
|Taylor Hughes||TJ Staples||Ryan Walker|
|Rafaa Quesada||Riley Wohlschlaeger|
|Karissa Cook||Falyn Fonoimoana||Angela Bensend||Carol Grasso||Keelie Arneson||TBD|
|Macy Jerger||Taryn Kloth||Katie Dickens||Emily Holombek||Alyssa Enneking|
|April Ross||Kristen Nuss||Lauren Dickson||Katie McCutcheon||Tori Hinojosa Just|
|Geena Urango||Corinne Quiggle||Jennifer Keddy||Laura Schaudt||Lindsey Kammermeier|
|Taylor Nutterfield||Katya Silveira|
The McKibbins have been playing around with the 4-Man concept for a few years now. Way back in 2018, in the early days of the McKibbin Brothers YouTube channel, they hosted an event they called “The Greatest Beach Volleyball Match Ever: AVP vs. NBA.”
That match featured current Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton, NBA champion Richard Jefferson, former NBA player and current AVP player Chase Budinger, along with AVP players Stafford Slick, Casey Patterson, Sean Rosenthal, and both McKibbin brothers, of course. The video of the match has accumulated almost a million views on YouTube, and that day opened the door to many events and videos to come.
The following year, Riley and Maddison played in a four-man exhibition match at the AVP Hawaii Invitational, which pitted partners against partners. Also in 2019, the McKibbin bros paired up with Taylor Crabb, Casey Patterson, Troy Field, and Brian Cook to compete in, and win, the 4 vs. 4 competition at the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games.
Saturday’s event in Austin marks an important step forward in the awakening of 4-man beach volleyball, spearheaded by the McKibbin brothers. They’re charging admission, $30 per person, and based on the two different times the event sold out, there’s no lack of willingness to pay for this type of high-level four-on-four beach volleyball competition. At least not in Austin.
That should come as no surprise. There’s a lot to look forward to here. For one, April Ross will be making just her fourth competitive appearance since winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. She has been arguably the best women’s beach volleyball player in the world for some years already, but that gold medal really secured her status as a legend.
Including the local talent is another stroke of genius by Salter and the McKibbins. For area fans in attendance, every time one of their friends and fellow Texans digs a pro, or aces a pro, or, best of all, blocks a pro, it will be a moment worth savoring. There are plenty of good stories and elite local athletes among the three Texas teams, and on the SharpeVision rosters.
From Dallas, you’ve got Brazil native Carol Grasso, who as a 5-6 outside hitter at Cal State Bakersfield earned WAC Player of the Year in 2017, and Ukrainian Alex Gutor who played at Penn State comes from athletics royalty: his father played for the USSR national team and later served as head coach of the Mount Olive men’s and women’s volleyball teams, and his mother was a world-champion fencer and the head coach of the fencing team at Cornell. Team SharpeVision has another one-time conference player of the year in Austin resident Jennifer Keddy, who earned the top honor in the Big West Conference as a junior at Cal State San Luis Obispo in 2011.
Personally, I’m stoked to see Taylor Sander in the sand. The new partnership between Taylor Crabb and Sander was announced last month, and the duo will make their international debut at the FIVB four-star event in Itapema, Brazil, November 10-14. I’ve been captivated by Sander’s athleticism, speed, and power — oh and that 40-something-inch vertical — since I first saw him play in a BYU jersey close to 10 years ago.
4-man offers Sander a nice, slow transition to the beach game, and since the courts at Moontower aren’t exactly Manhattan Beach-style deep sand, so we can all expect him to be flying and absolutely annihilating balls.
Yeah, it’s going to be awesome.