With summer just heating up, a new duo is making a big splash on the beach: Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross earned silver at the FIVB World Tour in Moscow earlier this month – only their second World Tour competition together – and stand fifth in FIVB rankings, the highest of any U.S. women’s beach volleyball team.
Sweat, a 2016 Olympian with Lauren Fendrick, thinks she and Ross have gotten off to a fast start by keeping things low-key and easy.
“We both come from a good place,” the 31-year-old Sweat said. “There’s no questioning each other; it’s strictly down to volleyball. There’s no drama involved. It’s easy to get catty when it’s just the two of you all the time, but we keep the drama out of it and keep it straightforward.”
Sweat and Ross, 24, are in Manhattan to compete at the AVP New York City Open, where they’ll take on other top U.S. teams. Before they hit the beach, though, Sweat took time out to explain why she thinks she and Ross could be the ultimate team.
In Rio, you played with Lauren Fendrick. How did you team up with Summer?
At the end of last season, my teammate Lauren was planning on trying to start a family, and I was planning on having shoulder surgery, so we both thought we were done for this year. Then I got an MRI (that showed) my shoulder was healing on its own, and the doctor didn’t want to do surgery. So it was, “Oh, what do I do now?” Just then, Summer texted me, “Hey, you want to play next year?” I was like, “Wow, I kind of do!” We did one practice together (in December) and it seemed so right. It didn’t take long to know this is what I was meant to do this year.
Why are you and Summer such a good fit?
We are both ball-control players, we have a really good touch on the ball and complement each other. We see the game very similarly, and that’s huge when it comes to partnerships and playing beach volleyball. It makes it easy for us to be on the same page. There’s not a lot of lost communication about what the other player thinks, or wants. It all kind of flows and it’s easy out there.
How do your personalities mesh?
We’re both really low-key on the court — I think maybe I’m a little feistier, but not much. We’re trying to keep it smooth. We don’t want to get too high or too low; we want to be steady and consistent.
It’s the same thing off the court, pretty much. We like to have fun together and I think that’s huge, because it carries onto the court. We respect each other on and off the court, and that goes a long way as well. So we’re building this friendship and partnership as much as we can.
You’re off to a fast start on the World Tour, a fourth-place in Ft. Lauderdale and second place in Moscow.
Well, I still think we’re a new team. No one has seen us play before this year, and they’re still figuring us out. We’re just having fun, there’s no pressure. We’re playing loose. We can have those hard conversations of what we need to fix, and not get mad at the other player.
What’s your strategy moving forward?
We’re focused on playing on the World Tour and competing with the best in the world. We are here in New York and absolutely excited to compete with the best in the U.S. We get back on the road Sunday night and head back to the Netherlands for the World Tour event.
Thus far this season, you’ve lost twice to Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil, two of the all-time greats.
Brazil is always good. They are the best in the world right now. It’s great competition for us. Unfortunately we didn’t play our best in our match against them in Moscow; I think we had some opportunities to score we let slip away. We’re just going to learn from that and bring that back to our practices. Hopefully, we’ll be in a better spot the next time we play a Brazilian team.
You’ve been working with a new coach, Ty Tramblie. What does he bring to the team?
Once we decided to play together, Summer pretty much said, “I’d love for Ty Tramblie to coach us.” I think for Summer a big part of learning and getting better is having a fast-paced practice, which is different than what a lot of coaches do, and Ty fits that perfectly. He’s very high energy; it’s very go, go, go. That’s new for me this year, and I love it. I can adapt to different coaching styles. Ty’s done a great job bringing energy to practice and noticing things a lot of coaches don’t notice, and those are the things helping us get to the next level.