With the turn of the seasons from summer to fall that comes at the end of August, so ended the AVP season in Manhattan Beach. It was an exciting and unusual season from start to finish. The summer began with much uncertainty whether there would even be a professional beach tour in the United States this year. Pro Beach Volleyball has been played under the auspices of the Association of Volleyball Professionals(AVP) for more than twenty years in the U.S. This spring it appeared the AVP would go the way of the dinasour and be extinct, only to be rescued at the last minute by one of the most powerful agencies in all of sports. Good turn of events. It was announced that the sport would be played with many rule changes this summer, six major ones in total, that would alter the sport as it had been played previously. Despite misgivings from many of the players the show went on and quite well indeed. The eight stop tour could only be judged as a success leaving players and fans alike excited about the possibilities for the future.
Manhattan Beach was the last regular season tournament of this season and is unarguably the tournament that every player would like to win once in his or her career. The tournament is the longest running tournament in beach history and therefore carries with it great prestige. The tournament was won by my roommate Keving Wong and partner Stein Metzger. As an example of the allure of Manhattan, Kevin had won an international event earlier in the summer taking home 3 times more money than at Manhattan, but was quoted as saying about Manhattan,"This one means much more than any other victory, to have my name mentioned among all of the other great players who have won Manhattan is really a thrill." I can only agree. The winners of Manhattan also have their names carved into a plaque which is then put on the Manhattan Beach pier with the plaques of all the former winners of the tournament for all to see. Truly the goal of all beach volleyball players.
My personal Manhattan was short and fairly bitter. I continued a streak of mediocre playing and hard luck which began a couple of weeks before. In the interest of staying positive and in light of the tragedy which has struck our country in the form of terrorism, I would like to put together a list of reasons for volleyball players to be positive about 2001.
Five Funnest Factors from 2001:
Parity - Some would say this was just inconsistency but you can't argue with the fact that there was opportunity for all out there this summer on tour. Teams going from first one week to last or near last was not an uncommon occurence. It also went the other direction at times. Brent Doble finished dead last(25th place) one week, and went on to win the tournament the next. Talk about a turnaround. I haven't seen this kind of movement of teams in my 7 seasons with the tour.
Lighter Ball - The positive here is after having played with a much heavier ball for years playing with the new ball is like hitting a feather. While I have never had shoulder problems personally, I can only imagine the playing life of players arms will be greatly extended playing with a lighter ball.
New Management - Nothing against old management teams but they just can't compare to this team in terms of financial resources and contacts within the sporting world. The AVP now has one of the premier sporting agencies running it and I look for great things for the sport in the near future. The management of the past had the enthusiasm and work ethic necessary for success, but did not have the overall package this group has to offer.
Chris McGee - The announcer for the AVP and a very talented guy. Anyone that has been to a tournament knows what I am talking about. This guy will give a pint of blood to get the crowd excited about volleyball. He is truly funny and is quick to come up with the witty comment. He also gets the resiliency award for being able to party all night and still come back the next day with a stronger voice than ever. How does he do it?
Volleyball - Just the opportunity to play the sport that I love for another season was great. The competition, travel, and camraderie will all be things that I miss when I am finished playing. It was great to be a part of another AVP season.
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Suck On That!!!
I picked the title of this article to keep it short and to the point and to better illustrate events which took place in the AVP Santa Barbara Open this weekend. In the course of my partner and I's first match against Metzger/Wong I upped the number of physical confrontations I have had for the season to two. The first occurred in practice before the Huntington Beach event so I am not sure if that can count as an official confrontation, or a practice one. I think I have to be leading the league in this stat, which any player from a contact sport would laugh at, but let's keep in mind this is volleyball and we have a net between the competitors. On to the details. Trailing 20-19 and serving I felt Stein Metzger mishandled a set and let my opinion be known the officials in the middle of the play. Fortunately for us my partner made a great defensive play and put away to extend the match. The smack talking continued until I taunted Stein a couple of plays later with, "Suck on that Stein, you -------." I'll let you use your imagination to fill in the blanks. He charged like a bull that had seen red, and after a little bit of bumping, shoving, and further name-calling order was restored. We were both red-carded for our part in the incident and play continued. Two big blocks by Wong later the match was over and Smith goes whining off into the players tent!! Actually neither one of this years league-leading two confrontations deserves much mention in comparison to the old days of Smith brother bare knuckles, beat em until you can't see through the blood, the parents or authorities break it up affairs, but like I said before, this is volleyball.
My partner Chad Mowrey and I were then matched against my old partner John Anselmo in the losers bracket. We showed brief moments of brilliance and having fun in this match as we did in the first one, but unfortunately not often enough and in the end we succumbed to a loss and were out of the tournament. I was than forced to suck on a 25th place finish. It is 3 days later and I am still washing the aftertaste of this one out of my mouth! I felt bad for myself and for my partner. Chad is a good up and coming younger player with a lot of enthusiasm and I would have liked to win at least one match with him.
The tournament was won by Metzger/Wong, so I guess my questioning Stein's manhood had a positive effect on their performance. Actually, those guys have been playing well all summer and proved it by winning by 7 matches in a row in this tournament to win it. Super performance! That leaves us with only 2 more tournaments this summer, Manhattan Beach this weekend and the annual King of the Beach tournament in Las Vegas in two weeks. Where do the summers go?
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This weekend was the first tournament I played with a different partner after 7 straight with John Anselmo. 7 tournaments might not seem like much, but on the AVP 7 tournaments is a lifetime by most players standards. Why did we decide to split? It was a mutual decision after a frustrating loss the week before that both of us would be better off playing with a bigger player doing most of the blocking at the net. Despite the fact that our kamikaze defensive style had led to a modest degree of success, it seemed that greater and more consistent success could be achieved with other partners. I chose Leland "Big Bird" Quinn as my running mate for the weekend. "Big Bird" is just one of many monikers Leland has earned over the years for his eccentric and at times inconsistent approach to the game. At 6'9" and possessing a sweet lefty armswing, "Lothar" (another nickname) is a dangerous opponent when he comes to play. The X-factor is that last part, the when he comes to play.
This tournament "Lothar" was ready and hungry to perform. We started strong with a victory over the South American duo of Delahoz/Rodriguez. This set up a match with the 2nd seed and winner of the last two tournaments in a row, Doble/Legrande. This was a match I was excited to play and felt we had an excellent chance to win. A tight first game got away from us 23-21, when I was roofed straight down by Legrande. We won the 2nd by the same close margin setting up a decisive 3rd set. We never really got untracked and went away meekly 15-6. After winning our first match in the losers bracket we were back on center court against Cardenas/Nichols. This team has been very hot the last 3 weeks, getting it done with a fantastic blocking and defensive game. We took the first set and were in good position in the second when my sideout game went AWOL. I think 9 straight points went by without a sideout by me. Despite my best efforts and the cajoling encouragement of my partner, who was starting to remind me of some strange combination of Jim Morrison and Tony Robbins in his efforts to get me out of the funk, I couldn't seem to pull out of it and we went down to finish 13th in the tournament.
On to more positive notes congratulations are in order for the team of Aaron "The Komodo Dragon" Boss and Colin Smith. They made their way into the finals for the first time in both of their careers and made the most of it by winning the tournament. Aaron is a college teammate of mine from San Diego State and I am very happy for him. They played in some extremely tough conditions, as did all of the competitors on Sunday, as it was pouring rain the entire day. To persevere and succeed in such conditions takes a special degree of determination and concentration which they showed. Another notable strong tournament that should not be overlooked was turned in by their finals opponents Ian Clark and Adam Jewell, who came up just short in the finals. The next tournament is in Santa Barbara in 2 weeks and I anticipate sunnier skies for that one.
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One might wonder about the title of this article so I will get straight to explaining it. I am writing in regards to events occuring around the last 2 stops on the AVP tour, which were in Michigan and New Jersey. Lost Weekends refers to travel difficulties my girlfriend and I had in traveling to the various sites. To begin the trip in Michigan my girlfriend locked the keys to our rental car in the car while I was practicing the day before the tournament. We managed to recover them with little difficulty but it certainly provided a bit of a scare. The rest of the bonehead maneuvers were executed expertly by yours truly. We managed to make it from Michigan to New Jersey with all of our belongings and our heads intact. The day before the tournament, again after practicing, I left my bag on top of our rental car and drove off with it there. Needless to say it was quickly lost. The funny part of this is that I couldn't figure out why all of those people were honking at us! I just thought that was the aggressive New Jersey way of driving!? One generally learns from this stuff but I was not done yet. Leaving from the tournament on sunday and heading to the airport I left our rental car keys in the VIP tent. This would have been no big deal but I didn't notice this until we had made it to the car which was parked a mile away. I quickly sprinted the 2 miles to recover the keys but this put us precariously close to missing our flight. Not done yet I managed to leave our plane tickets in a bathroom stall at the airport right before boarding. They were again recovered and we boarded ok but it may be time to have my head checked. I know sunrays are bad for the skin but maybe excess sun has somehow affected my memory capacity also? Oh the joys of traveling.
In between traveling across the country and losing personal belongings some volleyball was played. For my partner John Anselmo and I some good volleyball was played on saturday in Michigan. We won 4 of our 5 matches that day and advanced to sunday. Also notable on this day was an occurence in the match which we lost. Down 20-15 in a rally scoring game to 21 in the first set, I began serving skyballs. I was doing this half-serious, half-joke as I thought the game was probably over. Next thing you know we were tied at 20 all. I have made one other such comeback with the skyball in my career, in a sideout scoring game to 15 and down 12-3 the skyball brought us 12 straight points and an improbable victory. These are rare events though and especially in rally scoring. This current comeback would have been sweeter had we managed to win the match though. Sunday was not nearly as kind though as the block of Whitmarsh and the nearly telepathic defense of Canyon Ceman made short work of us. The team of Ceman/Whitmarsh went on to advance to the finals to face the local favourite Doble/Legrande. The Doblites as I like to call them were out in force. Brent Doble attended college in Michigan and apparently alerted his entire graduating class to come and cheer for him in the tournament. They were loud, boisterous and having fun. Legrande and Doble rode the wave of good feelings and won the tournament without losing a match.
New Jersey did not treat the team of Smith/Anselmo as kind as Michigan. The highlight was avenging my loss from last years tournament. In a strange twist of the draw we were paired against the same player (Elvis Rodriguez) that had knocked me out of the qualifying rounds of last years New Jersey tournament in the first round of this years tournament. As a local player he had a sizable following cheering him on. We managed to squeak out a 2 point victory in the third set, exactly avenging my 2 point loss in last years 3rd set. All I got to say is that I am clearly dominating this series and when it comes to playing in New Jersey, Elvis, get out of my house! We went on to lose our next 2 matches including an upset loss to the team of Medel/Moran by the score of 15-13 in the third set. Live by the sword, die by the sword I guess. Congratulations are in order to Doble/Legrande who won their second tournament in a row as well as to the team of Scott/Hanneman making their first finals ever. Good job guys and we'll see you this weekend in Virginia Beach to lay it on the line again.
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The second stop on the AVP Tour has past this last weekend(June 15-17) in Huntington Beach and it was not particularly kind to my partner John Anselmo and myself. We entered the tournament with high hopes seeded 9th, the highest seed either one of us have ever had. To mis-quote a Roman saying: We came, we saw and we were quickly conquered. 2 matches later and a 25th under our belt I felt like I would have preferred a lower seed in the tournament and a luckier finish. Our first match of the tourney was against the team of Stokes/Torsone. Some of you might remember Eddie Stokes, I teamed with him briefly last year in New Jersey. We were seeded 1st in the qualification tournament and promptly lost in the 1st round to make for last years lowest point. Something about Eddie Stokes and low points for me because they came out this time and promptly beat our butts. Playing well all around and doing a very good job of blocking they handled us in 2 games(21-14, 21-18). It was a tournament of upsets in the first round as 8 of the higher seeded teams lost in the first round. Both the 3rd and 4th seeds lost (Frohoff/Swatik and Doble/Lyles) in this massacre of the seeded teams. The team of Doble/Lyles had combined to finish 4th the week before end fell ignominiously to join us in 25th this weekend. On the bright side I guess we weren't the highest seeded team to lose 1-2 barbecue. Our second match pitted us against the team of Nygaard/Davenport. Again we entered thinking better things were in store for us then we received. We had beaten Davenport the week before and figured to take advantage of Nygaards relative beach inexperience. Sorry Charlie, guess again. The first game was competitive with us playing from behind the whole time but making a run at the end. We closed to 19 serving 20 with me serving. I promptly served in the net for the game. It did hit the top of the tape and teeter on going over for a moment so to look again on the bright side I was inches from being the hero. We took the second game fairly easily to set up the tiebreak to 15. This game went in there favour fairly early. Good blocking from Nygaard and some questionable shot choices by me put us into trouble from which we never recovered. Uno-Dos adios.
Some congratulations are in order for lots of other finishers. This was at least early on a tournament of lots of upsets and many teams had their career high best finish. Both teams that beat us went on to finish 7th, which is a career high for both. The teams of David Fischer/Jerry Graham and Casey Jennings /Sean Rosenthal finished strong in 9th which are also career highs. Colin Smith/Mike Lambert finished 4th which is also a career best. Congratulations to all of you and watch your backs in Muskegon because I'll be coming to get you.
This article would not be complete without recognizing the comeback tournament victory of Scott Ayakatubby. Ack, as he is affectionately called, was a top player in the early 90's before suffering through 4 straight injury filled seasons. He has comeback determined and excited to play this year and the results show that. He finished a strong 7th in Hermosa with Lee Legrande and this weekend teamed with Anjinho Bacil to win the tournament. They faced the team of Ceman/Whitmarsh in the finals and beat them in 3 tightly contested games. The Ack is definitely back and ready to play in 2001. Congratulations to him and all the other happy finishers of this tournament and see you in Muskegon.
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AVP 2001 Preview and Hermosa Recap
It's hard to believe but another off-season has gone by and the summer is here. The summer to me means beach volleyball and fun on the AVP tour. As has become normal with AVP off-seasons of late the ownership of the tour has yet again changed hands. The most current ownership group brings with it a great deal of hope and promise. This group is spearheaded by Leonard Armato, who is to quote sports jargon a "Super Agent", whose main client is basketball great Shaquille O'neal. Regardless of how you feel about Shaq and the Lakers (I am personally a huge fan of whoever they play against, for a variety of reasons), Armato's contacts and business savvy are a welcome addition to a sport which has not marketed itself particularly well over the last few years.
With any change of management comes a change in product and the AVP is no exception. Where to begin to explain the changes. In an effort to integrate the players who had been playing on the International tour (FIVB) into the AVP, the player ranking system was totally overhauled. This brought about some very abrupt change in ranking for some players. I was among a group of players including John Anselmo, David Swatik and Jim Nichols among others who woke up one morning to find out that our rankings had fallen 20 spots or more, all of this without having played a tournament. I guess we all did a bad job of training in the off-season! There have also been wholesale changes in the way the game will be played on tour. Sideout scoring, where a team scores only when serving, is a thing of the past. Rally scoring, or point per play scoring is now being used. Matches are played 2 out of 3 games, with the first 2 games to 21 and the third to 15 points. Setting rules have been loosened considerably. When I say considerably, I mean break out your hands, regardless if you lost all the feeling in them due to frostbite years ago! The serve can touch the net on its way over and did I fail to mention the court has been shortened by a meter both length-wise and sideways. To round it all off a new official tour ball is being used. What is my take on all of this? At first I was extremely skeptical to the point of having tears in my eyes the first time I tried it and wanting to go directly thereafter to Sinjin Smiths house (the force behind much of the change) and beat him senseless. When it became clear that this was going to be how beach volleyball was played this summer I determined to give it a chance and am glad I did. All of the changes have their positives and negatives. The smaller court in combination with the looser setting regulations make it possible for teams to run an indoor volleyball type offense. Backsets, shoot sets, quick sets, hitting over on 2 have all become a part of the beach game. Jump serving loses a bit of its dominant role and the ball stays in play more often with the smaller court. Rally scoring, while not without its negative facets, can also make for some exciting closely contested matches.
Now that we are all up to speed on the nuances of the new AVP tour lets talk about the first tournament that took place this last weekend in Hermosa Beach. Hermosa is always one of the best tournaments due to its great tradition, knowledgeable fans and proximity to most of the players homes. Everyone wants to play well in front of their family and friends and if you polled the players to find out how many live in Hermosa or have lived there at one point I would estimate it at 20 percent. The history of the tournament also brings out the best in the players The fact that most of the greats in the sport have won Hermosa at some point is a highly motivating one.
This years tournament was won by the team of Dax Holdren and Todd Rogers. They defeated 2000 gold medalists Fonoimoina/Blanton in 3 games in the finals. The 3rd was won on a remarkable comeback from a 14-11 deficit, thought to be almost insurmountable in a rally scoring game to 15. Despite the fact that Fonoi/Blanton had 3 chances to sideout for the title Rogers/Holdren were not to be defeated on this day and made spectacular defensive plays in succession to win the tournament. This was the best match of the tournament but other good volleyball was played. Sinjin Smith showed that even at 40-something (I believe 44) he can play good volleyball and finished 7th. Matt Lyles came out of semi-retirement to team with Brent Doble to finish 4th. Despite the fact that this is who eliminated us from the tournament (buttheads!) I have to congratulate the both of them for playing well. As far as your author and his partner Anselmo we finished 9th. We did have an exciting match in the first round defeating my roommate Baxter and his partner Scott Davenport 22-20 in the third. Mr. Anselmo saved the match with an ace at 14-13 down to help us to victory. Thanks partner. There was a bit of smack talking in this one as Baxter and I had a roommate spat a few weeks ago and haven't been communicating all that well (or at all for that matter) since then. I guess on the bright side we exchanged pleasantries of sorts during the game. It was certainly a match nobody wanted to lose and I consider myself fortunate to have won. Along the way we were defeated by the eventual finalists Blanton/Fonoi and managed to avenge last seasons season ending loss to Jim Nichols. I enjoyed the tournament and look forward to lots of fun this summer starting with this coming weekend in Huntington. Hope to see ya there, over and out for now.
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Santa Barbara AVA Championships
Well, I wrote that after Manhattan that I wouldn't be writing for a while, as I thought that would be my last competitive tournament for some time. I was wrong on both accounts, the competing and writing, as I found myself doing both at least one more time for this season. The AVA finals in Santa Barbara were set up by the AVP as a last chance for players not ranked in the top 32 to gain their exemption for next season. The top four finishers in Santa Barbara received an exemption for next season. I did not think I was going to play as it was unclear up until the friday afternoon before the tournament exactly where I was ranked and if I would be eligible to play. As it turns out I was ranked 33, so I was eligible to play in Santa Barbara. Only problem was my partner from the end of the season, John Anselmo, was ranked in the top 32, and therefore ineligible to play. This opened the door for one Chris Makos, who had anticipated this happening (showing math major like skills in predicting the results of the AVP's somewhat confusing points determination system) and had called earlier in the week saying he would like to play with me.
Chris and I made the trip to Santa Barbara not having played so much as a practice game together. It was also a fun challenge for me because I played the left-side after having played almost every other tournament this summer on the right. I feel comfortable and confident on the left, in fact, I really enjoy playing on that side. I guess the other players in the tournament don't share my enthusiasm for my left-side play, or at least my confidence in it. I was getting served in this tournament so often that there were some matches I felt as if I had a target on my chest saying, "Serve this guy, he's weak and can't sideout." We came into the tournament seeded first and played decently in our first game and won. This set up the match with Santa Barbara locals Matt Riley and Ken Arduin. Arduin is a fantastic defensive player who has grown up playing at Santa Barbara's East Beach and pretty much knows every nook and cranny of the place. Due to the fact that the tournament was being run very slowly we did not start our second round match until around 4 pm. This is prime windy time at East Beach, and this day was no different. Despite valiant efforts by Chris and myself to delay the start of the match, arguing that the first seed should always play on the center court, we were forced to play in the wind. Wind or no wind, we were outplayed by Arduin/Riley who had the answer for everything we tried offensively and were aided by mistakes from us to win 15-9. Welcome to the losers bracket kids. We cleaned up our act there, winning 5 straight matches, including the re-match against Arduin/Riley. This game was lots of fun as the winner got one of the exempt spots for next season. Chris and I controlled the match most of the way, until, fighting like a team wanting their exemption, our opponents forced us to switch to the bad-side of the court leading 14-11. I still felt good about our chances to win, but they made play after play to tie at 14 all. Lots of sideouts and a couple of
close and controversial plays followed before my partner saved us with a big ace. We held on to win 16-14. I guess Riley was right when he said enthusiastically to me earlier in the match that this one was going to be a war. It was a tough break for Arduin and Riley who played a great tournament and showed lots of heart and love for the sport. We than preceded to get thrashed in the next game by the much fresher team of Salmon/Ring. I have to take a friendly jab at my partner Makos who was moving and jumping in this game like he was playing in cement sand socks. I guess giving me all those great sets had taken its toll. In all seriousness, Chris played very well all weekend until he ran out of gas in this one.
The rest of the tournament deserves a bit of press as well. The tournament was won by up and coming players, Sean Rosenthal and Casey Jennings. They came back through the losers bracket to beat veteran players Richard Boldt and Scott Davenport in the finals. The aforementioned slowness with which the tournament was run forced the finals to be contested in the dark. Despite the darkness all 4 players played entertaining and good volleyball. Boldt proved once again that he can party with the best and still play well, and Davenport showed his previous experience in playing in darkness was no fluke (he beat me and partner Brian McDonald in a similar situation earlier this summer) despite losing a hotly contested 8-6 game in the double final. Congratulations are in order for youngsters Rosenthal-Jennings for their excellent play and until next time, aloha.
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Farewell - For Now
With the passing of the Manhattan Beach Open this weekend the AVP regular season came to a close and with it the end of summer. There is no better end to a summer and a beach volleyball season than the Manhattan. Manhattan Beach is where beach volleyball began and is the tournament that every player would like to win. The knowledgeable fans and perfect setting for our sport, as well as the tradition of the event, draw the best out of every player.
This years tournament was no exception and featured hordes of great matches. For my partner John Anselmo and I it was a disappointing 17th place finish. Going into the tournament I had hoped for more as I felt we were playing some very good ball heading into the tournament. That having been said, I feel we did contribute at least a little to the tournament by playing a solid match against eventual tournament champions Loiola/Emanuel. Other interesting happenings included announcer Chris McGee cabling into the finals from 200 yards away in "Flying Wallenda" style and than commanding the entire audience to Pogo dance with him to get the crowd fired up for the finals. I would say it worked. The finals were a display of world-class beach volleyball won by current world best team Loiola/Emanuel. They won 15-13 in a battle over the team of Ceman/Whitmarsh. After the match Whitmarsh announced his probable retirement from the sport. This would be unfortunate for the sport as Mike has accomplished much as a volleyball player and is still playing at or very near the top of his game. Other players announcing there retirements at the tournament included veterans Scott Friederichsen and Brian Ivie. They will all be missed.
As this is the end of the season and my last installment for some time I would like to take the time to thank everyone that made this season possible and fun for me. First and foremost I would like to thank Tanya and the girls for doing this website. I thank you for your enthusiasm for our sport and interest in my career. I would also like to thank coaches Mark Barber and Dane Selznick for their help this season and in seasons past. Thank you Mike Peterson of IQ Sportswear for your sponsorship and continued support. My family deserves much thanks for their ongoing and unconditional encouragement and support, without which my life would not be nearly as rich as it is. Finally I would like to thank God for the abundant blessings in my life and allowing me to continue to live out my dreams as a professional volleyball player. That will do it for this season and until the next, aloha, and keep spiking!
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Finally Made it to the Promised Land
Well as I have been saying all season long, the goal is to be playing on Sunday, the second day of the tournament. This is when the best volleyball is being played and the real tournament begins. Every beach player dreams of playing late into sunday and giving himself a chance to win the tournament. Despite the fact that I have been focusing on this goal all summer, it has taken me until the second to last tournament of the year to achieve it. My partner John Anselmo and I took 7th this weekend in Seal Beach which means we were playing on sunday. Better to have achieved the level of play late than not at all I say. Now we are looking to keep the momentum going in the last tournament of this season in Manhattan Beach.
How does one go about making it to sunday of an AVP tournament? In our case it required playing a lot of volleyball, as we were forced to play in the qualifying tournament on friday. This day went fairly smoothly for us. We were not challenged until the last game of the qualifying round. Things were also going smoothly in this game until match point for us. I had dug up a ball and gotten a perfect set from Johnny and went full speed to absolutely detonate the ball, which I did. Unfortunately for us, our opponent, Dan Ortega, in a desperation defensive action trying to protect his face, plays the ball back at the net at almost the same speed I had hit it, where it clipped the top of the tape, teetered on both sides, and then trickled onto our side for a game saving sideout for them. They gained some momentum from this and came back to 10-9, before my partner ended the madness with a match winning ace serve. This win qualified us for main draw play on saturday.
Saturday begin inauspiciously for us, as I showed up on the beach 10 minutes before we had to play our first match. Way to go sleepy head. I usually like to start preparing myself at least an hour before the first match of the day. On this morning I had stupidly underestimated the amount of time it would take to get to the beach. Despite my tardiness, we started off ok, but the super consistent team of Rogers/Holdren began to wear us down and defeated us fairly easily 15-6. Not exactly the stellar start to what turned out to be my best tournament of the year so far. This matched us up against Scott Fredrichsen and Dan Castillo. This match was fun for several reasons. One of which is I have a lot of respect for veteran Fredrichsen who has played on the tour for over 15 years now and is still a capable performer. I have had lots of trouble with his game in the past and had never defeated him. I definitely wanted to beat him soon as I believe he is nearing retirement and did not want to have to admit I had never beaten the man. Also, both Castillo and Fredi are from the surrounding Orange County area and had a good local following cheering for them. We stayed tough despite going down early 6-2 on a slew of mistakes and took the game 15-11. This advanced us to a match with another legend of the game, the irrepressible Tim Hovland and his partner Bill Boullianne. Despite the fact that his game is not what it once was, the Hov is always a dangerous opponent, and good for excellent dialogue. On this day I think he was having back problems and so didn't have too much to offer on the court, but was still good for snappy comebacks. At one controversial juncture he derided referee Lars Hazen like only the Hov can, calling him among other things, a bigger idiot than he was 10 years ago, to the delight of the crowd. This kind of thing may seem mean-spirited but it is motivated by Hovs competitiveness and is not intended as a personal
affront to the victim. The two jawed further after the end of the match, with referee Hazen asking Hov how many mistakes he made in the course of losing to us. Hov replied in Hov style that he had played perfectly and if it weren't for his partner and Lars, he would have won the match easily. Whether or not that was the case, Hovlands contributions to the sport as a player and a personality, are a benchmark which all of us must strive to meet in the future.
Last match of the day matched us up against my roommate Paul Baxter and his partner Sean Scott. I approached this match with mixed emotions. On the one hand we had talked a lot of crap to each other all summer and I wanted my chance to back up the checks my mouth had been writing. On the other hand Paul is my roommate and buddy and I think we both knew that somebody had to walk away from this one with a loss which wouldn't be easy to take as we are both very competitive. As is typical for Seal Beach it was a very windy afternoon and we were lucky enough to begin the game on the good side. We precede to go down 3-0 and I was thinking that it could get ugly for us. Instead it got ugly for them, as can happen in windy conditions, we scored the next 14 points in a row. It was a bit of an uncomfortable evening at home as Bax and I sat in the living room watching tv in complete silence, just waiting for someone to say something. Nobody did and so after 2 hours of that I called it a night and prepared myself to play on my first sunday of the season.
The day started off well with us beating Doble-Metzger in a tight 15-13 contest which featured lots of banter from the voluble Metzger. It was a nice victory for us. Unfortunately we were mauled in the next game by Jewell/Hannemann. This is a team that has played well this year and was coming off having won the all-time record for length of a beach game. They won a hard fought contest over Martin and Kerins on the first round of sunday 15-13 which lasted an hour and 55 minutes of well played ball by both sides. They continued their good play and we cooled off considerably and went down quickly 15-3. This loss doesn't overshadow the other accomplishments of the weekend though.
What's next? One more tournament this weekend in Manhattan and than the off-season. I am working very hard to end the year strong and put myself in position for even bigger things in the near future. We'll update you on my never-ending quest for volleyball excitement next week.
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Being in Beautiful Virginia Beach brought back some pleasant memories for me this weekend. In 1998 my brother and I had done poorly in the AVP Cincinatti Tournament, losing in the first round. We than decided to double our bets on this weekend and drive the 16 hours to V. Beach from Cinci to play in a semi-pro Cuervo tournament which was offering some than much needed prize money. After driving all night and playing all day we walked away with the tournament victory. The final was also televised nationwide so this offered us a chance for some rare television exposure. The good vibrations from this tournament carried over and I was feeling positive on the eve of the tournament this weekend.
I was also feeling positive this weekend as I was only watching the qualifier and not participating in it. After experimenting last weekend with the up and coming Eddie Stokes who had very few points, I changed back this weekend to a bit more sure bet in John Anselmo and had enough points to avoid the qualifier and get straight into the main draw. I had originally scheduled my flight for thursday night thinking I would have to qualify and ended up taking this flight anyway and enjoyed bumming around friday, checking out some of the qualifier action. The most entertaining thing I saw on friday was in the middle of one very spirited match to qualify for the tournament one of the competitors took time-out to go to the sidelines and puke his guts out. He than returned to the heat of battle and preceded to win the match and qualify himself for the tournament. Old school, I love it! Speaking of old school, around six on friday evening I received a call from my partner who was stuck in New Jersey. It seems that most of the flights going out of Jersey were cancelled due to the inclement weather that plagued the tournament much of the weekend as well. What to do? To rent a car and drive the rest of the trip seemed to be the only option for John. I believe he got to our hotel sometime around 5 in the morning on Saturday. I guess somebody has to be driving all night if the tournament is in Virginia Beach.
Our first match was at 9:30 and a sleepy Anselmo came to play and played well. We were ahead 8-4 on Boss/Paahaluhi early before a number of silly sideout mistakes by yours truly cost us the game 15-10. That is when the rains came. For those of you who were in Chicago imagine that, with even more rain. The show must go on though. After beating a local favorite qualifier team in a match marred by 3 rain delays, we faced Hannemann/Cardenas. This game featured almost every type of weather condition possible, rain, sunshine, humidity and a strange shadow being cast across the court from the local skyrise hotels to name a couple. We emerged victorious 15-10. In the last game of the day we faced the long-time team of Mark Kerins and Kevin Martin. I believe their experience in playing together was probably the difference in this one. Despite the fact that we had them in some serve receive trouble with our serves, they were able to bail each other out time and again with some very adept setting. They sent us home this weekend with a 15-9 loss.
At least this was a much better showing for me after last weekend in New Jersey. I was very upset with how things turned out there. It just goes to show that if you hang in there good things will happen. With 2 weeks off and only 2 tournies remaining after that, I intend to train hard the next few weeks and prepare myself to play my best volleyball of the season in Manhattan and Seal Beach. Until then, Ciao.
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The 7th stop on the AVP tour took place this weekend in beautiful Belmar Beach, New Jersey. Unfortunately it took place without me as I was yet again unable to qualify. This was perhaps the most disappointing loss for me of the season for 3 reasons. The first is I had felt as if my game was progressing as the summer progressed and felt the most confident that I have since my injury last summer. The second was my results had been showing a gradual upward trend over the last 3 weeks. The 3rd being that New Jersey is a fun place to play beach volleyball. In the interest of positivity I am going to keep the gruesome details of this one short.
We can get started by quelling the illusions of anyone out there that might be thinking that life on the pro beach volleyball tour is all fun and games. The qualifier begins on friday which means that thursday is a travel day. Including flight and car time to get to my hotel I spent a solid 10 hours traveling on thursday. Lump in the 3 hour time change between east and west coast and you have a tough day. We played and lost on friday morning in the span of less than 2 hours and than turned back around and flew right back to Los Angeles. That means in a 2 day span I had traveled over 20 hours to play less than 2 hours of volleyball. Ouch.
What happened in the short period of time between cross country flights you might ask? Here it is in a nutshell. My partner Eddie Stokes and I played very poorly against locals Silverstein/Rodriguez. Not to take anything away from our opponents because they earned it, but this is a match which I feel should not have been even close in our favour. Our own poor play coupled with what I believe was very biased and absolutely horrible refereeing put us in a tough spot. I maybe should have realized that we were going to have problems before the match when the ref appeared to be best friends with our opponents, but I was feeling confident so I counted on his integrity and didn't think much of it. That having been said, the fact of the matter is we lost and should have found a way to win despite challenging circumstances. The lone bright spot of the match came in the second game, after having dropped the first 11-5, facing matchpoint down 10-5, we managed a gutsy comeback and pulled the game out 14-12. The 3rd game went poorly for us and we lost it 6-3. It did feature an interesting occurrence when one young fan came out of the crowd to knock down a ball that my partner was about to set. The youngster just got a little excited and literally went and hit the ball before my partner could make a play on it. In my 14 years of playing I have never seen that.
What is the state of this comeback season? While obviously this season has been a very challenging season for me I relish that and the challenges ahead. It is said that failure is a great measuring stick of ones character and I intend to pass the test. Maybe something good will come of this after all. Perhaps a reunion of the Smith bros. Crazier things have happened.
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I looked forward to the tournament this weekend for a variety of reasons. The first was this was the first event that I would not have to qualify for this season. My partner Matt Taylor and I were the 23rd seed entering the tournament on points meaning we would not have to brave the qualifier. I also always enjoy playing in Michigan because the crowds are generally large and enthusiastic, as well as knowledgeable about the sport and this makes it that much more fun to play. We were paired against the 10th seeded team of Hanneman/Paahaluhi which is an interesting matchup for us. We have been sharing a room on the road with Nick Hanneman in order to defray costs and this tournament was no different. It made for some interesting vibes between the travel companions on the day before the tournament. Saturday was a very windy day in Muskegon causing the level of the volleyball being played to drop a bit. We were lucky enough to begin the match winning the coin toss and elected to take the good side. Despite siding out very well we struggled during the first side change. More accurately, I struggled. My struggles were at the service line where I missed 7 serves in the first side change alone. I tried everything but the underhand variety of serve to get one in but couldn't. This set the tone for the rest of the match and despite scrappy comeback play by us we lost 15-12. We than took out the qualifier team of Burke/Magill fairly handily (15-8) to set up a match up with the team of Matt Unger and Ian Clark. Matt has played well this summer and has reached a ranking as high as the 14th ranked player at one point. In this game we took control early and jumped out to an 11-5 lead. We than preceded to have another horrible run on the good side and were down 13-12. We switched to the at this point very bad side with little prospects of winning. We than proceeded to sideout every time on the bad side including battling to a 15-14 lead and Taylor having a swing to win the match for us. He
unfortunately hit the ball in the one place that Unger was covering who nicely dug the ball and put it away to save the match for them. We switched to the good side 15 all and I was feeling very good again about our chances. We made some great serves which they somehow saved for sideouts as well as a straight down block of Ian by my partner which Ian somehow stabbed at with his left hand while he was coming down from hitting the ball. The ball improbably comes up, dribbles on the net and falls over on our side for a very lucky and most likely game saving sideout for them. We went on to lose an extremely bitter pill to swallow of a game 15-17. No excuses though, if I want to be playing on Sunday these are the kind of games I intend to start deciding in my favour.
The saturday night festivities in Michigan were also of note. Upon entering a local establishment I was quickly informed by former great Tim Hovland that I was wearing the same ugly shirt as last weekend, which he quickly demanded be turned over to him. In deference to Hov's obviously glorious past in the sport I complied and traded shirts with him. Big mistake. Within the hour my shirt was torn to shreds by the aging Hov. An hour after that the shirt which I traded him for was torn nearly in half. It made the rest of the night a bit difficult as I was repeatedly asked by bouncers to button my shirt. I slyly pretended to button the torn pathetic thing and fortunately pulled it off. Mental note: If you own a nice shirt and go out when the AVP is in town, discretely avoid the Hov.
The monday morning partner shakedown was a bit unkind to me this week. Matt Taylor called me to inform me that he would be playing with my brothers old partner, Pete Goers, leaving me to search for another partner. He assured me he had my best interests at heart while he felt he was not a good enough setter to play with me. That was very sweet of him. I am still a bit confused why he received so many serves while playing with me than, but someday I will figure that one out. I am actually not that upset with Matt as this is very normal on the AVP to change partners, and I found a good partner for this weekend in Eddie Stokes. I wish him luck and hopefully we will get a chance to play against them this weekend. Hope to see as many of you as possible in New Jersey this weekend and until next week, goodbye.
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Life On The AVP Tour
Its been 2 weeks since Chicago and a couple of interesting weeks at that. I suffered through the week after Chicago with a severe cold and was unable to train much. In this down time I had a lot of time to contemplate my partnership situation. While I was reasonably pleased with my Chicago partner Matt Taylor, AVP players are always looking for that slightly better partnership solution to lead to the big results and I am no different. I decided to gamble on a young talent directly out of college named Reid Priddy for Santa Barbara. I say talent while he has lots of physical skills but lacks experience. I felt like we would make a good combo and he could benefit from my experience. He agreed, at least for the span of about 5 days. Although I was unable to train due to my sickness we set out to play in a preparatory semi-pro tourney in Santa Barbara to prepare for the AVP event in the same location the next weekend. We finished a respectable 5th in the tournament which featured many AVP teams. We were also on the verge of doing much better leading 8-4 in the semis against another young talent Larry Witt, before going down in a hotly contested game 15-13. I started the week leading up to the Santa Barbara event in good health and determined to train hard with Reid to prepare for the weekend. We did that with varied results, which leads us to Wednesday at noon with the tournament entry deadline being the same day at 5 pm. We had just finished practice and as I was gathering my gear to leave the beach Reid wanders up to talk. Was he wanting to give me a hot stock tip or talk about blocking strategy? Not exactly. He informed me due to our practice form he had lost confidence in our ability to play well in the tournament and wanted to look into finding a different partner. I told him that while I wasn't going to force him to play with me, 4 hours before the tournament was not the best timing for this kind of thing as it is extremely difficult to find a partner at this time. I
guess this was karma coming back to me as I had done something very similar about 7 years ago when I was a young pup. I made several desperation calls trying to see who didn't have a partner at the last minute as well as calling Matt Taylor back and begging forgiveness. I felt as if I had mistakenly broken up with my girlfriend and was now forced to beg to be taken back. Luckily for me Matt was having trouble finding a satisfactory dance partner for the weekend and so after making me sweat it out for a couple of hours took me back.
Matt and I made the drive up to Santa Barbara with our prospective qualifier opponent Eddie Stokes. As so often happens friends must play against each other and we were matched against the team of Stokes/Counts to qualify for the tournament. This match was a war. It lasted almost 2 hours and ended luckily for us 7-5 in the third game. There were many moments in the match I thought we would be going home unqualified. It also resembled a war in that on one point in the match Stokes/Counts attempted the bizarre strategy of double blocking me (while I am almost impossible to stop, there are better ways to try it) and Counts struck Eddie in the mouth with his elbow on the way down causing Eddie to precede to bleed all over the beach for the rest of the match. Having survived qualifying, not to mention the unsuccessful test of the Star Wars missile defense system taking place not far away, Matt and I looked forward to Saturdays main draw play. We were matched up against Whitmarsh and Unger which is a team I feel very comfortable playing. In a match which included many missed opportunities by both sides, we went down disappointingly 15-10. We may have taken a bit of that disappointment into our losers bracket match as we found ourselves quickly trailing 10-3 to local favorites Devin Poolman and Alika Williams. After almost being heckled into submission by the locals fans we came storming back to lead 14-13 and having somewhat won the crowd over. After our opponents booted the ball down the beach in frustration I began to jokingly plead with the referee for a red card, earning myself the nickname of "red card boy." I seized the opportunity to banter with the fans a bit and enjoy myself. The enjoyment was only momentary as a game winning dig by us was snatched away by a bad referees decision and a few minutes later our small lead evaporated into a 16-14 loss. These things have a tendency to even themselves out though and I anticipate the next questionable decision will fall our way.
In a small side note the fact that I was not in on Sunday allowed me the opportunity to supplement my income with another California Semi-pro tourney. Accompanied by many other of the saturday losers I played with my roommate and AVP native Minnesotan Paul Baxter, and we managed to win 7 games in the one day tourney and pulled out the victory. Not as sweet as playing on Sunday on the AVP tour but that will be coming soon. Ciao until Muskegon.
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Chicago, the windy city, known for its financial sector and great pizza. Chicago has also been one of the best stops on the AVP tour for many years. This year was no exception. What makes Chicago such a fun tournament to play? The large, knowledgeable crowds that come to watch and the perfect for beach volleyball natural beach setting of North Avenue Beach to start. The awesome party fun of the "VolleyTrolley" is another reason. We'll come back to that.
Chicago marked the first time this year that I have successfully managed to get out of the qualifier and qualify for an event. I played with Matt Taylor, a product of UCLA, and a good player who has been paying his dues for quite some time in trying to earn a spot on the tour. We played very well in the qualifier giving up only 3 points in 4 games. We double-bageled (11-0, 11-0) our last opponent in the qualifier, who I will allow to remain anonymous, as there have been games like that in my past that I wanted nothing more to do than forget. In the first round we played the 6th seeded team of Doble/Metzger. After early good play by us, we began to crumble and make a string of unforced errors that cost us points and any chance to stay competitive in the game. We lost 15-5. It was frustrating as we only figured out towards the end of the match that Doble was having back problems and couldn't sideout as consistently as usual. We served Metzger most of the match and came up with nothing there. After squeaking by my old partner Brian McDonald 15-13 in the losers bracket we were matched up with the recently hot team of Paahaluhi/Hanneman. This is when the rains came. And I mean a lot of rain. It was perhaps the worst conditions I have ever played in my Beach career. Chicago will always have a spot in my mind as the "Rainy City" in my mind after this rainy saturday of play. At any rate the show must go on, so we proceeded to continue play despite the rain. Even with the tough conditions we played an enjoyable match. The lead switched hands a couple of times with the final score ending 17-15 against us. I stopped jump serving midway through the game as the ball became so heavy that I felt it was worthless to jump serve. It just wasn't possible to put much pace on the 10 lb. bowling ball. We had our chances to win the game, especially with us
leading 15-14 and Hanneman pulling a cut shot out of his butt after having been set 12 feet off the net to save the game for his team. Great shot Al, but I'd like to see you do it again. Better yet, please don't do it again against me. I'd like to say thanks again for the support of Tanya Matheys and her group, the Superfans, for their constant cheering throughout the 90 minute rain filled battle. I believe they were the only fans left on the beach, which is a big deal, because there were players ready to take off, and we get payed to be there. With this loss we were knocked out of the tournament. Unfortunate as the next day was gorgeous weather and featured some great play.
This brings us to the saturday night festivities of the "VolleyTrolley." For the uninitiated the "VolleyTrolley" is 4 or 5 busses which stop at various Nightclubs throughout Chicago. It is organized by the volleyball people of Chicago as a sort of welcomer to the AVP and its fans. The fun starts at around 10 pm and has a tendency to run all night long, depending of course if you have to play the next day, but even that doesn't stop some players. As I was no longer in the tournament I had my share of fun on the tour of Chicago's finest night stops. Perhaps too much fun as I am now sick with a cold and a small fever. Oh well, it was worth it. Can't wait for the next tourney in Santa Barbara. Until then, Aloha.
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Third Try is a Charm?
Well this past weekend marked the 4th stop on the AVP Tour and the third in my comeback attempt. I say attempt because it hasn't been much more than that to this point. I lost for the 3rd time in a row in the qualifier, again, in the last round before we would have qualified. I played with David Fischer who is an athletic player with some experience. We played the young team of Reid Priddy and Brandon Taliaferro, a team featuring lots of athletic ability but not too much beach experience. Both of whom are college All-Americans who have just graduated and promise to have bright futures in the sport. I figured our superior beach savvy would carry us through in this match. Unfortunately, I was wrong. We battled hard in a match which lasted well over an hour and was full of hard-serving and hitting by both squads. David and I went down 11-9, 11-8 to the kids despite a 6-2 lead in the second set and lots of chances to score which we didn't capitalize on. To their credit they played very well and went on to play well in the tournament also, including a devastating 12 ace win over tour regulars Cardenas/Hribar.
Whats next? Curl up into a ball and whine about the lack of success I have had in getting back on the tour? Not for a minute folks. I still love the game more than ever and am having fun, at least as much fun as one can have not getting out of the qualifier. I am headed for Chicago (hopefully we will see some of you there) and believe good finishes are just around the corner.
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Well folks, my hopes and dreams of picking up where I left off on the AVP tour in '98 are getting off to a very slow start. In some windy conditions my partner Brian Mcdonald and I went down in the 2nd round of the qualifier tournament to veteran players Greg Ryan and Steve Simpson. We lost in a tight 3 game match that featured sporadic play by both teams. That would be expected of Ryan/Simpson as both have been only part-time players on the AVP over the last couple of seasons and have not been training much. This made the loss that much more frustrating for Brian and I, especially since we had been training hard and had done well in a tough Cal-King tournament the week before, in which we defeated tour regulars Aaron Boss and Albert Hanneman and narrowly lost in the finals to up and comers Pete Goers and Scott Davenport. What does this mean for the future of the team of Smith/Mcdonald? Most likely hasta la vista baby. We have played together now for 4 weeks and I think despite brief flickers of good play by us we will both be better off playing with somebody else. I have put out about 6 phone calls to other players and must decide by tomorrow (the entry deadline for every tournament is the tuesday before the tournament) noon who I will play with this weekend in Huntington Beach. The turmoils of being an AVP player.
The tournament itself featured many upsets. One of the most exciting of was a 15-6 drubbing of Whitmarsh-Swatik by my roommate Paul Baxter and Mark Paahaluhi. They took a commanding 7-1 lead and pretty much dominated the match all the way through. The game featured a couple of amazing hits by Paahaluhi against the Whitmarsh block, including a game ending right side rocket. Another noteworthy upset was posted by the team of Boulliane/Hovland against the white hot team of Legrande/Doble. This match was interesting not only for its upset quality, but also for the antics of Legrande and Hovland. With Hov and Beef controlling the game, Legrande screamed before a Doble serve for all to hear, "Serve the old man every time." This drew a reaction from Hovland which led to a sand throwing fight between the two which had true comedy value. I feel this type of thing draws the crowd more into the game and when not taken too seriously is good for the sport. WWF watch out! The finals of the tournament were well attended and as always featured excellent work by PA announcer Chris "Geeter" McGee, keeping the crowd involved with his interesting repertoire of dances and commentary. Being there and only being able to watch again only made me more determined to do better next week and work my way back on the tour and be more a part of the whole show. Bring on Huntington Beach!!
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They say it never rains in Southern California and at least on this last weekend it doesn't rain in Santa Cruz, California either. It was a weekend of great beach volleyball and weather like only California can produce. There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was beaming down on the courts of Santa Cruz. The only possible slight drawback for the players was the fact that the sand in in Santa Cruz is very black and therefore became extremely hot at times. No whining though, as hot conditions are just another day at the office for beach volleyball players. I only wish my day at the office had lasted a bit longer, but we will get into that in a moment.
I made the 6 hour drive to Santa Cruz on thursday with my partner Brian McDonald anxious to get my beach season started. I say 6 hour drive as usually this is the case but our drive unfortunately ended up being closer to 8 hours as we mistakenly took the Pacific Coast Highway all the way up. This route is a fantastic route scenery wise but is not very quick. We got to the courts just in time before sundown to get a little bit of a warm-up in and shake off some of the stiffness from the long drive. The courts and the set-up were all first class with the exception of the fact that the sand was just filled with debris. The sand made at times for some pretty painful landings as there were chunks of wood and stones all over the place. I pulled a piece of wood out of the court during our first qualification match which was so large I stopped the match for a moment, held it over my head, and giddily exclaimed: "I have struck gold, I'm rich."
The qualifying tournament for Santa Cruz started bright and early at 9:30 a.m. friday morning. Due to the schedule of games Brian and I did not play until noon. We were paired unluckily for us against the team of Aaron Hansen/Jesse Brown of Seattle. This is not a team I have seen much of in the past but I was quickly impressed by their level of play. Jesse Brown is a shorter player, sort of a Dan Castillo type, with a good serve and an aggressive arm-swing in the sideout game. Hansen, left-handed and taller, compliments him very nicely. The qualifier format this season is best 2 out of 3, with the first 2 games to 11 and the third game, if necessary, played to 6. We came out strong and on the strength of some good siding out and aggressive-serving, won the first game 11-6. The first game also featured one of my better blocks in recent memory as the hard-hitting Brown found my hands perfectly. Thank you Jesse! The second game we started out also very well holding a nice 6-2 lead and feeling good about advancing on to the next round. A little too good. Better serving by them and a bit of a drop off in our game caused us to be outscored 9-2, to lose the game 11-8. This set up nervous time and the crucial 3rd game. Luckily, we were not nervous for long. A few consistent sideouts by us and good blocking by my partner Big Mac, including a game winning swat back of Brown, we advanced with a 6-1 victory in the 3rd. This set up our match-up to qualify for the main draw, Jeff Carlucci/Sean Rosenthal. This is also a team that I have not seen much of in the past, but one that I have a feeling will be a consistent team on the AVP in the near future. They are both younger players from Hermosa Beach who are very talented. While I had not seen them much before my last 2 seasons in Germany, I have seen plenty of the both of them in the last couple of weeks. Too much perhaps.
They have been winning the lead-up local tournaments here in California which I have been using as training to get myself prepared for the tour. I realized this would be no easy draw. Well the first game bore that out as we played fairly pathetic and lost 11-4. The second game was a bit of a different story. We were down early but fought back to down 9-7, but headed to the good-side of the court with the serve. After an ace by me sent it to 9-8, I could sense the kids were perhaps about ready to crack. Carlucci proceeded to hit a half speed ball right up the middle almost right to me, which I dug, but unfortunately 6 inches on the other side of the net. In my defense he had been hitting very good cut-shots the whole game and I was running to this shot, the easy hit down the middle caught me in mid-stride and a little bit high in the chest. No excuse though, if you want to win the game you mUUUst dig that ball. Rosenthal hit my errant dig straight down on one and I am not sure the ball has come down yet, as it bounced approximately 3 stories high. This seemed to settle some issue, at least for this particular day, and after a few more sideouts we went on to lose the second game 11-8. So much for a quick return to the tour in the first tournament. Why did I call this article the Qualifier hangover? My brother Aaron and I tried to qualify for the '97 AVP Phoenix Open and held a 14-6 lead in the game to qualify. I went on to hit 9 or 10 straight spike attempts directly in the block (sorry Aaron!) and we went on to lose 16-14. We saw Mike Dodd in the hotel the next morning and were forced to explain how we had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. He then succinctly put into words exactly what we were feeling, and that is that a tough loss will often hurt even more the day after the loss. Obviously, the game in Phoenix was a lot more ours to win than this more recent one, but any time you lose in the qualifier it hurts. Hence the qualifier hangover.
There are a couple of more interesting happenings from the qualifier that deserve mention. The presence of the team of Bill Boulliane and Scott Ayakatubby in the qualifier made me feel at least a little bit better about having to qualify. They played a local team from Santa Cruz which seemed to have some athletic ability and a solid local following. The crowd went crazy on every sideout the locals got. The favorites braved the storm and moved on to face the San Diego squad of Mike Desjardaines and Jeff Hall. Things were a little tougher for Beef and Ak (Boulliane/Ayakatubby) in the qualifying round. After winning handily in the first game they were pushed to the limit in the second by the upstarts and lost 11-9. Desjardaines thought he had won the lottery and proceeded to put on a gymnastics routine for the crowd featuring a couple of very nice somersaults. Things were tight in the 3rd with the veterans winning 6-4 and advancing to the main draw.
I hung around on saturday to check out some games and to feel like a part of the tour despite the fact that I wasn't playing. Any hurt feelings I might have had from not qualifying were quickly compounded by the fact that the team we lost to did not show up for their first game against Doble/Legrande until they were down 9-0. It appears the kids forgot to set their alarm clock and overslept the start of the game. I was doing everything I could not to jump out on the court and exclaim that we had actually won and we were ready to play. Unfortunately, this is not allowed. Other interesting happenings from the first round included the stunning upset of Whitmarsh/Swatik, 17-15. Was that a Smith brother reunion to pull off another upset against big Whit? Unfortunately not. It was the qualifier team of Alika Williams and Devin "Saddlebags" Poolman. "Saddlebags" you might ask? To put it nicely, it appeared that Devin had not been doing lots of working out this past off season. All ribbing aside, they both played very well and I congratulate them for their good play. A 14-9 deficit was turned into a 16-14 win by the all spanish speaking squad of Pepe Delahoiz and the aforementioned Leland Quinn. Leland, despite his american citizenship, has seemingly switched his language of preference after playing this last indoor season in Spain. Another strong performance was turned in by the team of Nick Hanneman/Adam Jewell. They beat the team of Ak/Beef in the second round to advance to the winners bracket quarterfinals. Ayakatubby and Boulliane started the morning strong by beating the team of Holdren/Rogers in the first round but appeared to run out of gas against Hanneman and Jewell. Thereafter Ayakatubby was forced to forfeit their losers bracket game against Nichols/Cardenas due to heat exhaustion. I am sure playing in the qualifier, the heat and the heat of the dark sand began to take their toll on the for 3-year absent from tournament play Ayakatubby.
Ak has been such a great player of the game over the years and I am sure no one would take it harder having to forfeit than him. That will do it for Santa Cruz. If you are hungry for more info about the tourney and haven't heard about Sunday play already you can get it on the AVP website (AVPtour.com). Until Hermosa and keep your fingers crossed for better results for D.Smith.
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The following installment is from David!...
Hello and greetings to all you beach volleyball fans out there. This is the first of what I hope will be interesting and different articles written by me to be posted on the site. My goal in doing this is to provide a different outlook on the sport than what you can get at the other major venues such as the AVP website or Volleyball magazine. Nothing against those places but I hope to provide you with a sort of insiders view of the tour and its happenings. Unfortunately for this first installment it will be limited only to my happenings because I was unable to compete in the first tournament.
As you probably know if you have been on the website recently, some exciting things have been happening in the land of Smith bros. volleyball. First of all Aaron has married and announced his retirement so it is actually not Smith bro volleyball anymore. Big brother David must search for a new partner. To compound the difficulty of this search I have been playing indoor volleyball in Germany the last 2 years and was seriously injured last summer. Due to this injury I was unable to play on the AVP. Where does that leave me points and ranking wise you might ask? Donut baby. No points and no ranking at the moment. It is a little frustrating after 4 years on the tour to be thrown back to ground-zero, but it is a challenge I relish. I am anxious to prove that I can play this game better than ever and to have my best season ever. I have been lucky enough to have help in this pursuit from IQ Sportswear which has stayed loyal to me and will be sponsoring me again for the 2000 season.
What am I doing to prepare for the upcoming tournaments? Training and trying to apply enough sunscreen before doing so. After 2 years in the artic coldness of Northern Germany I am whiter than a baby's bottom. I don't know what has been more painful, the sunburned skin I have had while trying to achieve a base-tan or the constant ribbing from my fellow players. I am proud to announce that this process is almost over at least (thank God!). Since my return to Southern California 3 weeks ago I have been training everyday and feel that it is coming along nicely. I played last weekend (April 29-30) in an AVA feeder tour tournament with Jason Pursley and took a 3rd. We had an excellent chance to win the tournament but unfortunately didn't take advantage of it. Thats ok for the first tourney back after a 2 year absence. I plan on starting the year with Jason and testing how cohesive we can get as a team. What else have I been up to? I have moved into a nice place in Venice Beach with fellow AVP player Paul Baxter. It can be staggering the amount of errands one must run to get oneself organized after 2 years of living in a foreign country. I have also been working closely with my sponsor IQ to put a catalog mail order spot on this web-site. We hope to have that up and running by the end of the month before the next tournament in Santa Cruz (May 26-28).
That will do it for this installment. I hope to have new photos to post and there will be at least a new article after the Santa Cruz event. I will write an article after every tourney this year to update the site with and new pictures as often as possible. Also, keep on the lookout for the IQ catalog as the end of the month approaches. Finally, I am interested in your responses and depending upon the amount of interest and time constraints would like to keep an active dialogue going with you folks out there, so e-mail me at the site or sign the guestbook and as the season aproaches, LETS GET READY TO RUMBLEEEE!!!!!!
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