My Favorite Match: Kim Smith

A few weeks ago, I asked Misty May-Treanor what her favorite career match was. Of course, with about 47329837 wins and 6 losses (research amnesty), there were many games for her to choose from. And in true humble Misty fashion, she picked a LOSS as her favorite career match – such a gangster move. 

Her answers and insight into the game were so fun to write that I decided to make “My Favorite Match” a series. Every athlete has games that stick in their mind. And it’s not always a big win. Sometimes it’s a solid performance after being injured. Or maybe it’s the first time you beat your idol. A million different dynamics go into every match, and more times than not, overcoming some sort of adversity through those dynamics is why a match solidifies in your psyche.

Misty kicked off my new favorite series with recollections of a World Championship loss. I’m not nearly as cool as Misty, so I’m choosing a win as my favorite career match. And mine happened a little closer to home. More accurately – at home. At the Granddaddy of them all – the Manhattan Beach Open. 

It was 2018, and I was playing with a brand new partner. Corinne Quiggle and I linked up weeks before the tournament. Actually, maybe it was one week. I think we trained all of three times before the Qualifier.

We felt pretty confident, but we had no idea the kind of chemistry we’d end up having. We sailed through the Qualifier pretty easily. The teams we played were really talented; Corinne and I just gelled instantly right out of the gate. 

We went into Friday with three wins under our belts and a very fitful night of rest on my part. I often sleep poorly during tournaments, whether from nerves or restless legs or that paralyzing fear of not waking up to your alarm. Fortunately, I felt okay in the morning, and Corinne looked better than ever. 

All three of our Friday matches were tough. We won two and lost one (our loss came in the third set to Caitlin Ledoux and Nicole Branagh- so close to staying in the Winner’s Bracket). But with two wins, we made it to Saturday! Hooray! 

Saturday began very similarly to Friday. For the second day in a row, I woke up at 4 am. So fun… But we came out guns blazing, winning our first two matches against great teams. 

Side note: All of our matches that Saturday were on Court 1. We had one match off between each of our FOUR games that day, and it was always a Men’s match. After winning, we’d gather our stuff as Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb came into our player’s box for good winner’s luck. This just so happened to be their first tourney together after Tri came back from his two-year autoimmune disease battle. We’d all congratulate each other or give good luck for the next match. Pretty fun rhythm, pretty great juju in our box. 


So then comes our third match. Our opponents are Karissa Cook and Katie Spieler. This duo plays a different game than basically everyone on Tour. And it’s a phenomenally hard game to play against. Karissa is so smart and accurate. Katie is crafty and touches everything defensively. Corinne and I had our work cut out.

We started miserably slow. It was in the mid-80s, and we had eight matches in our rearview mirror. I’d slept about 10 hours over the last two nights, which means I’d played more volleyball than I’d slept. So when we got crushed in the first set 21-8 (still the worst thrashing I’ve ever received), I had all but given up. 

“We’ve had a good run, buddy,” I said to Corinne between sets. But she wasn’t letting me give in that easily. I don’t remember what exactly was said, but she motivated me to reach that next level. We overhauled our defensive strategy and won the second set 21-14. 

The third set was a grind; both teams had been gathering data throughout the game – learning our lessons and adjusting our game plans. Every real point felt like a piece of candy. We four athletes were depleted but playing our hearts out. Corinne and I took it 15-12 to advance to the fifth-place round. It was further than either of us had ever gotten in an AVP. 

That match proved so much to me about myself. There’s always more left in the tank. A match is never lost until the last ball falls. And having the right partner, one who knows how to stay calm when she sees her partner hit a wall, is a gift.