There’s a common theme when these women — four highly accomplished beach-volleyball-turned-snow-volleyball-turned-beach-volleyball-turned-fours-volleyball-players — get together. There’s fun.
And then there’s winning.
The former more than likely begets the latter, though in truth, there’s no way to measure such intangible things. Allie Wheeler, who has played in virtually every type of quirky or whimsical event one could imagine – four snow volleyball tournaments, one fours tournament – in the past year, summed it up best:
“We’re going to have fun, but we’re also all super competitive so all of us are going to want to win. Honestly, we’re going to have fun. We’re going to go in with the mentality that we’re going to have fun.”
She said that just before leaving for the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar that concluded Wednesday.
In the moments after winning gold, beating Brazil in the finals of the inaugural World Beach Games, Karissa Cook echoed a similar sentiment: “They beat us pretty good earlier this tournament, so we just came in thinking we’ll have some fun, we’ll make a couple of changes, we’ll take some risks and see what happened,” she said. “And it worked.”
Imagine that. It’s what has worked for Cook, Wheeler, Katie Spieler and Emily Hartong — the snow volleyball team — this past year, with two golds and a silver in four events. For the World Beach Games, they added good friends and competitors Geena Urango and Kelly Reeves, a pair of Sunday regulars on the AVP Tour who only seemed to increase morale on a team that didn’t seem like it could have room for much more.
And then, while mixing in the usual activities like falcon shopping and exploring Doha, they won gold, because that’s just what has seemed to happen this season when this crew of friends is put together.
“Another blast,” Hartong wrote on Instagram, “representing USA Volleyball.”
Nor were they the only ones having a blast. Between games of backgammon on the bus ride, shaving team suave hawks, playing the air guitar, and dancing on the sideline — ahem, Troy Field — the men, too, will return home with gold, beating Qatar, 21-18, 26-24. The win atoned for a pair of earlier losses that nearly kept the Americans — Casey Patterson, Taylor Crabb, Brian Cook, Madison McKibbin, Riley McKibbin, Field — from breaking pool.
“Each of us found our role,” Patterson said. “Tonight, we decided to just ride out that line-up until we needed to switch. Nothing ever happened, everyone was in the zone, so as a veteran I knew that that was more important than playing time. So we tried to keep that flow going, keep the guys comfortable and getting better and better.”
The double-gold will mark an idyllic, almost poetic, end of the season. A year that began with a gold medal in Wagrain, Austria, playing snow volleyball on a ski resort, will end with a tournament of the first of its kind.
“It’s such a good squad of people,” Wheeler said. “We’re all such good friends and what other way to travel than with a good group of friends?”
Good friends and a gold medal.
Click here for all the results of the World Beach Games Volleyball 4×4.