“Can you play this week?”
This is the highly-anticipated text some of us wait for from my coach Nancy Reynolds (Mason). It’s an honor to receive this text. A right of passage, if you will.
Every Thursday morning, a crew of legends plays 4v4 in Hermosa Beach. The group includes Nancy, Holly McPeak, Leanne McSorley, Carrie Dodd, Rachel Scott, Jenny Kropp, Nicole Branagh, Lisa Arce Zimmerman and Angela Lewis… to name a few.
I always try to leave my Thursday mornings free in case I’m lucky enough to get the infamous text, especially in the offseason… because you don’t want to be busy and then have to wait another few weeks to hopefully get asked again.
Right after the last 2019 AVP event in Hawaii, with offseason just ahead, there was one more event that a group of us had been waiting to play in. Kelly Reeves and I joined the USA Snow Volleyball team (Emily Hartong, Karissa Cook, Katie Spieler and Allie Wheeler) to create an epic 4s beach squad. Fours you ask? With six players? You mean a team with subs like indoor?! That’s right. 4v4 Beach Volleyball was going to be one of the sports that would be played at the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar.
So who did we call after the AVP Hawaii Open to help us prepare for this event? Nancy, of course! With a couple days of practice under our belts, we were able to try a handful of different lineups and realized how many fun indoor-like sets we could run with everyone playing almost every position.
For us women, this would all be our first time traveling to Qatar, let alone any Middle Eastern country. Qatar is a Muslim country, so being respectful of their culture was important, especially when it came to which clothes we packed: shirts that covered our shoulders, non-tight pants that at least covered our knees. Mind you, the temperatures in Doha this time of year are in the 90s with around 60% humidity. At least we knew our matches would mostly be in the evenings.
Travel day was soon upon us with the men’s team (Casey Patterson, Taylor Crabb, Troy Field, Maddison McKibbin, Riley McKibbin and Brian Cook) along with Coach Phil Noyes (USA Beach). While waiting for our direct 16 hour flight from LAX to Doha (one of the longest direct flights in the world), we began looking up some of the other “obscure” sports that would be competing at the first-ever ANOC Beach Games: 3v3 basketball, beach handball, beach soccer, beach tennis, beach wrestling (talk about sandy), karate kata, etc.
Our first couple of days in Doha involved checking out the Souq Waqif market, visiting the Museum of Islamic Art and trying some of the local cuisine. We also learned that the amazing city skyline with its tall buildings and aesthetically-pleasing architecture was pretty much non-existent only a little more than a decade ago. There was constant construction going on around the city and it was expanding at a rate I can only imagine.
The sporting events were all very well set up at a few venues around the city. The beach volleyball venue was beautiful when we played in the evenings; as the sun set, the temperature cooled to a tolerable level, and during our matches we had the support of some U.S. military members who were stationed in Doha.
The men’s team got 2nd in pool, and then in a heated Finals match against the home country, were able to win the Gold Medal with the Highness of Qatar watching! We also finished second in our pool, and we were able to match up against Brazil again in the finals. Brazil had some of their top players on the team, such as Barbara Seixas, Juliana Silva, Rebecca Cavalcanti and Fernanda Alves. The result… another Gold Medal for the U.S.!
We’re coming home holding our heads high. We’re bringing home some hardware. Two gold medals ain’t too shabby! We got to travel to a country unlike anywhere most of us had ever been and experience a culture that opened our eyes to a whole new world. We were the first athletes to compete in the first-ever ANOC beach games, which we hope will continue to happen, and I got to play with some of my good friends! Lastly, we had the opportunity to wear USA on our backs and represent the country we are so lucky to call home.
I’d like to think we made the Hermosa 4s legends proud too. If it wasn’t for them, this sport wouldn’t be where it is today, nor where it could potentially be in the future. Snow volleyball in the Winter Olympics? 4s Beach Volleyball in the Summer Olympics? We can hope!
But one thing’s for sure, we’ve made history for women. Women’s beach volleyball had never been played in the public eye in Qatar before, and very conveniently the International Day of the Girl landed on October 11th while we were competing. We can also hope that this event creates growth for other sports in other nations, and in my eyes, for women most importantly.