I’m starting this out with a disclaimer: literally, all of our teams are fun to watch. I’m a giant beach volleyball nerd and could watch just about any team play and enjoy myself. I love all equally, but there were a few standout teams and athletes from this year that I want to gush about.
As the most successful Men’s team this year, Casey and Chase are shoo-ins for post-season love. But I’m not just talking about them for that reason. Casey Patterson had a new level of swagger. He’s always had swag, don’t get me wrong. Something about this year, though, it seemed like he rediscovered the love of the game. Some of the digs he made seemed impossible. His hitting percentage was top of the charts. He was dancing for the crowd again. This year seemed a little more… from the heart, I guess. It’s hard to pinpoint why Casey proved more fun this year. Maybe it’s playing behind Chase’s ever-improving block. Or maybe the taste of retirement is giving him a fresh perspective. I also heard Casey stopped lifting so heavy and worked more on agility and muscle lengthening. Whatever works for Tom Brady (Google “TB12 Method”) seems to be working for Casey, too.
Taryn Kloth & Kristen Nuss
This is a big ole, “Duh, Kim,” but I really can’t get enough. Right out of the gate, the newly-graduated LSU duo became a formidable foe. When teams saw them on their side of the bracket, they moaned and groaned. They played in the longest Women’s set in history and then beat their own record two weeks later. Those two sets were against our two Olympic teams, making them even more memorable. I wrote about Taryn and Kristen in-depth before—about how they move in tandem, about Taryn’s dominance at the net and small touches when she pulls, about Kristen’s insane vision both on defense and offense —so I won’t blab now. Oh darn, just did. But these two youngsters deserve it; I bet I’ll be oversharing about these two for years to come.
John Hyden & Ricardo Santos
I was in the DJ Booth in Atlanta when I first heard that these two legends would be playing together. DJ Roueche said he’d put a pre-set mix on to go watch them on an outer court if they weren’t on Stadium. Producer Kelly announced she’d be ditching her headset and responsibilities to follow. Thankfully – their first match was on Stadium Court, so we didn’t have an empty production booth. All fans loved watching this old-school team battle their way to Sunday in Manhattan Beach. They’re both coaches year-round, so they see the game unfold lightning fast. This makes their jobs on defense easier, a real bonus for their 45-plus-year-old bodies. They had tons of opportunities, and Hyden’s sideout game was machine-like. Ricardo and Hyden are two of the best ever. Though they may not be at their peak physical conditions, their mental game and court awareness are superb.
Molly Turner & Terese Cannon
Molly and Terese have been on Tour for a few years now, but I saw their best volleyball while playing together in 2021. Theirs is an easy and casual relationship; they look like they are friends off the court. Molly is a feisty player with tons of energy and fire. Terese is a dominant physical presence. Her demeanor may seem like she wouldn’t hurt a fly, but she can absolutely demolish the ball. This team took Taryn and Kristen to three sets in each of the three times they played them. Molly and Terese keep it weird, adjusting mid-play to the little touches they get. They never stop, which provides for a lot of fun rallies with big celebrations.
Zana wowed AVP fans in her breakout tournament alongside Crissy Jones in Hermosa 2019, but the 2021 season proved she can handle adversity and change like a champ. Zana played with three different partners in all three events. She made it to the Semifinals through the Winners bracket with two partners. That’s incredible! The time she didn’t make the Semis was at the MBO when she picked up an 11th-hour partner on the evening before play began. She and fellow UCLA Bruin Savvy Simo won two matches, earning a respectable 13th place out of 24 teams. She has the third most digs and 6th most kills on the season. If Zana can make Sunday this year, I expect she’ll have no problem repeating her success in years to come.
Tim Bomgren & Jeremy Casebeer
Frankly, this team didn’t finish the way I thought they would. That doesn’t mean they weren’t wicked fun to watch. When I saw they were playing together, I knew we’d see high-flying, hard-hitting plays to impress. It took them a minute to find their footing (probably because one lives in the Midwest while the other spends most of his time in Brazil). But they found their groove in Chicago, and their play elevated to what we all expected. They started to split block a little, which freed Casebeer to rip his serves and rack up the aces. Plus, Bomgren is a former blocker and can still get up there. Split-blocking looked like it freed both of them to trust their instinct and make smart, quick decisions. I really hope they stay together for next season; there’s something about this athletic, scrappy duo that just screams fun.
Larissa & Lili
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my new favorite AVP team in this piece. I’ve expounded on my love for this team in length, so I won’t beat a dead horse (what a morbid phrase; not sure I’ll be using that regularly). To learn more about them, check out their profile and the AVP Chicago recap.
Tri Bourne & Trevor Crabb
The AVP needs a villain, and Trevor Crabb delivers every time. Tri and Trevor are like the angel and devil on your shoulder. Tri is kind and gentle (unless he’s throwing a block in your face); Trevor is gruff and inflammatory. I love every bit of it. Trevor’s energy definitely fires Tri up, bringing out the devilish side in our unexpected Olympian. Like when they were down 12-16 in the Manhattan Beach Semifinals only to come back and win the whole thing after a minor altercation. I wrote about that match here, and it remains one of my favorite 2021 moments. Tri and Trevor’s telepathic play evolved into a thing of beauty this season. They’re basically the same player. They anticipate what the other will do because that’s what they would do if they were in that position. I’m sure there will be copious partner shakeups between this year and next, but I’m hoping these Hawaiians stick it out and build on their momentum.
Miles Partain & Paul Lotman
I have a lot to say about this team. Check back later this week for more on this stellar pairing.