COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Take a look at what USA Volleyball has left in store on the beach during the 2017 FIVB World Tour season.
The FIVB World Tour began its season in February this year. Despite the atypical early start, the World Tour held a men's only event in Iran the next week before holding off until March. For the teams in the top tiers of the World Rankings, the time between the first event and their next, spanned months.
In 2017, the FIVB made a change that designated events by a star ranking. Most of USA's top teams set a plan early in the season to compete in the 4-5 Star events, which yields just five tournaments, excluding the World Championships and World Tour Finals. The time between the Fort Lauderdale Major and the next 4-5 Star was almost three entire months, with Rio being a 4-Star, from May 17-21.
What's on the schedule
Today, the major events left are The Hague (3-Star), Porec (5-Star), Gstaad (5-Star) and Poland (4-Star). USA's top teams will also have the opportunity to play one last time in the U.S., at the Long Beach Presidents Cup, an exhibition of USA vs The World format.
With the new format of event ranking, the schedule gets busy fast. There are weekends with multiple events, and American athletes spread all over the world playing.
June 14-18, The Hague 4 Star
16-18, Nanjing, China 2 Star
17-18, Monaco 1 Star
June 23-25, Nantong, China 2 Star
27 – July 2, Porec, Croatia 5 Star
July 4-9, Gstaad, Switzerland 5 Star
July 12-16, Long Beach, Calif. exhibition
14-16, Daegu, Korea 1 Star
July 19-23, Olsztyn, Poland 4 Star
20-22, Ulsan, Korea 1 Star
21-23, Agadir, Morocco 1 Star
July 28 – Aug. 6, Vienna, Austria World Championships
28-30, Espinho, Portugal 2 Star
Aug. 22-27, Hamburg, Germany World Tour Finals
The new teams
It's typical after an Olympics for partnerships to change. Team USA is no different in 2017, with nearly all of the top teams mixing it up, with the exception of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. That duo is reaping some of the benefits other American athletes, and foreign as well, are missing out on with the benefit of their experience together and combined entry points.
Dalhausser and Lucena earned the men's No. 1 seed at the 2017 World Championships, and have proven deserving after earning bronze in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 11, and then gold in their second event on the Tour, on June 4 in Moscow.
Where we are now: Olympian Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross are tearing it up, with a fourth and second place finish this year. April Ross is playing with fellow 2016 Olympian Lauren Fendrick, a reprisal of their outing at the 2015 World Tour Finals. Kerri Walsh Jennings is back with Olympian Nicole Branagh, having last played together in 2012, and in Branagh's first appearance on the World Tour since 2015.
In the mix and frequently racking up Top 25 finishes are Brittany Hochevar and Emily Day. Throw in Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, who graduated from USC in May, and the women's field for the United States just got shook up in ways that could provide some exciting results.
The shuffle on the men's side has seen a lot of trickle-down changes, which is leading to some good finishes so far in the year. John Hyden is playing with Ryan Doherty, after his partner Tri Bourne took needed time off due to a health issue. Jake Gibb is on-board with Taylor Crabb, while Trevor Crabb is now with Sean Rosenthal. Casey Patterson has teamed with Theo Brunner, and the pair are quickly making a name for themselves with three Top 10 finishes so far.
With all the concurrent events happening, the schedule is opening opportunities in the 1-3 Star events. Kimberly DiCello and Emily Stockman won gold for USA in Langkawi, Malaysia in April and are mainstays on the travel circuit, scheduling themselves to hit up three more tournaments before July is up. Stafford Slick teamed with Billy Allen in mid-April and the two are making their case to being a main draw team – two Top 25 finishes and two events still ahead to finish June.
The World Championships is a must-watch
It's the biggest event outside of the Olympics for beach volleyball. Held every two years, the event holds the most esteem outside of the Olympics. In the World Championships hosted the year prior to the Games, it provides countries the opportunity to win one bid to the Games.
The tournament has a large field of 48 teams per gender, broken into 12 pools of four teams, moving into a round of 32 single-elimination. What makes it especially cool to watch, are the countries that attend. Outside of the host country (2017 it's Austria, July 28-Aug. 6) and Top 23 in World Rankings, each of the five confederations are allocated berths. Through teams qualifying through the continental route this year, the USA could face opponents at the World Championships that we don't often play on the World Tour, like: Colombia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone.
Since 1997, the U.S. has won the event once on the men's side (2007 Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers), and four consecutive times on the women's side between 2003-09 ('03/'05/'07 Kerri Walsh Jennings/Misty May-Treanor; 2009 April Ross/Jennifer Kessy). In total, Team USA has reached the World Championships podium five times with the men and nine times with the women.
The stakes are high at the World Championships, and for the remainder of the 2017 season. Most teams are new, untested and hungry to notch successes before the next Olympic qualification season begins in 2019. Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Team USA has a lot going on in beach volleyball.
Team USA at 2017 FIVB World Championships
|Summer Ross||6-2||Carlsbad, Calif.||Huntington Beach, Calif.||Washington/Pepperdine|
|Brooke Sweat||5-8||Fort Myers, Fla.||Hermosa Beach, Calif./Estero, Fla.||Florida Gulf Coast|
|April Ross||6-1||Costa Mesa, Calif.||Costa Mesa, Calif.||USC|
|Lauren Fendrick||6-1||Carlsbad, Calif.||Mountain View, Calif.||UCLA|
|Kelly Claes||6-2||Placenta, Calif.||Los Angeles, Calif.||USC|
|Sara Hughes||5-10||Costa Mesa, Calif.||Los Angeles, Calif.||USC|
|Kerri Walsh Jennings||6-2||San Jose, Calif.||Manhattan Beach, Calif.||Stanford|
|Nicole Branagh||6-2||Orinda, Calif.||Torrance, Calif.||Minnesota|
|Phil Dalhausser||6-9||Ormond Beach, Fla.||Manhattan Beach, Calif.||Central Florida|
|Nick Lucena||6-1||Davie, Fla.||Tallahassee, Fla.||Florida State|
|Theo Brunner||6-8||Ridgefield, Calif.||Torrance, Calif.||UC Santa Barbara|
|Casey Patterson||6-6||Manhattan Beach, Calif.||Huntington Beach, Calif.||BYU|
|Jake Gibb||6-7||Bountiful, Utah||Huntington Beach, Calif.||Utah|
|Taylor Crabb||6-0||Honolulu, Hawaii||Redondo Beach, Calif.||Long Beach State|
|John Hyden||6-5||San Diego, Calif.||Sherman Oaks, Calif.||San Diego State|
|Ryan Doherty||7-1||Toms River, N.J.||Hermosa Beach, Calif.||BYU|
|Coaching Staff||Hometown||Coach For|
|Marcio Sicoli||Rio de Janeiro, Brazil||Walsh Jennings/Branagh|
|Ty Tramblie||Newport Beach, Calif.||Sweat/S. Ross|
|Jason Lochhead||Tauranga, New Zealand||Dalhausser/Lucena|
|Rich Lambourne||Louisville, Ky.||Patterson/Brunner|
|Sean Scott||Men's Team Leader||Kailua, Hawaii||Hawaii|
|Aimee Miyazawa||Head Athletic Trainer||Denver, Colo.||Northern Colorado|
|Anthony Darmiento||Sport Physiologist||Cal State Fullerton|
|Dr. Elmo Agatep||Team Doctor||Kapaa, Hawaii||UC Davis|
|Dr. Kevin Pierce||Team Chiropractor||U. of Redlands|
|Tyler Widdison||Technical Coordinator||Salt Lake City, Utah||Utah Valley|