Ali Wood at the World University Championship for Beach Volleyball
I wish I had a whole lot of fun (in addition to volleyball) to report, but these international beach events last all day, from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm, so it is all we can do to crawl back to the hotel, which is actually a hostel, and try to get some sleep. Did I mention that there are no curtains on the windows in our room and we have to sleep in bunk beds? OK, it sounds worse than it is, but I am looking forward to getting back to my queen size pillow top! Last night they had a reception for the delegations down in the lounge. It would have been fun but there was no AC and people were smoking so we didn’t last long. It is amazing to me how many of the foreign athletes smoke and drink beer while they are still in the competition.
Today started off fairly well. It was still really hot…I was told it got up to 33C (93F) yesterday and was 30C today! Our guys came out really strong today. Joey and Mark had no trouble with the Turkish team. Joey continues to improve his blocking. He has been working very hard on it the past few weeks, so it is great to see him have so much success with it. Duncan and Clint had a great match against the #2 China team. Lots of blocking and power, which is fun for the fans. Duncan is getting a lot of press here since he played indoor for the Hamburg Cowboys last season and is already a bit of a celebrity. I think this has helped his confidence, as he is playing great…really steadied out his setting. They beat China in two to win their pool.
The girls both struggled in their final pool play matches. Kari and Olivia lost to an experienced and steady Estonian team. What is so frustrating is that there is no coaching allowed at these events. If you even cheer something that sounds like coaching you can get fined! If Dana was able to give Olivia and Kari some feedback they would have done so much better. This loss put them at second in their pool. Lauren and Keegan lost in three to a surprising Canadian team. Keegan looked a little flat and had a hard time passing. At 5’6” she is getting almost every serve and just couldn’t quite sideout at the end. The loss did not affect their standing though, as they ended up winning their pool at 2-1 in head-to-head over NZL.
The drawing of lots went well as both the men and the women were put in opposite brackets from each other. This way both teams have the chance to make it to the final without having to play each other. In the first round of double elimination, Joey and Mark drew Netherlands. Surprisingly, Netherlands did not send any of their top development teams to this event, so Joey and Mark were able to win fairly easily in two. They face Switzerland tomorrow. Clint and Duncan drew Australia, who are two of the most non beach volleyball looking guys I have ever seen…how do you play beach and have completely white skin? But, the Aussies were surprising and gave our boys a run for their money. The little guy was digging really well, but it wasn’t quite enough…USA took it in two and face China 2 again tomorrow.
Lauren and Keegan got a bye, so they were done for the day. They will play NZL tomorrow. Kari and Olivia drew the same Canadian team that beat Keegan and Lauren and guess what…Canada is 2-0 against the US today. Again Kari and Olivia’s inexperience showed as they were very tentative. Their match was pretty challenging as halfway through the sky opened up and it started to pour. Neither one had ever played in the rain, and it showed. They will drop into the contenders’ bracket and face Spain tomorrow. If they make it through they will have four back-to-back matches, so they have their work cut out for them.
Once we got back we had a quick dinner and then did video review for a couple of hours…ok, the athletes and Dana did video review…I fell asleep. Tomorrow will be a long day.