Monday, April 23, 2007
Have to start with Stein and Mike. What happened? I saw very little of the first match they lost to Ed Ratledge and AL-B due to being in the middle of my match. From what I hear, Stein did not play very well and Ed and AL played very well in games 2 and 3. I did see most of the second match they played against Doble and Loomis. While I don't think they played their A game, I don't think they played their F game either. Somewhere around the C game. Doble and Loomis on the other hand had their A++ game going. Some of the serves Loomis was bringing down the line at Stein were absurd. Stein didn't have time to react and Loomis didn't miss many serves. That accounts for the game one beat down. The second game was a battle back and forth. Stein and Mike had the lead at 18-17 and were on the slightly better side when they gave up 4 unanswered points. The wind was mostly a side wind and Stein was going to the good side each time. I believe the first point Mike tried to hit on 2 and it went out. The next point Doble blocked Stein. The next point Loomis scooped Stein. The last point Doble blocked Stein. I could be a bit off but I think in general that was how it ended. For me, it shows how tough this tour is. Phil and I just barely beat Doble and Loomis in Miami. I have a feeling that Stein and Mike are going to be pretty good in Huntington Beach. Very tough to beat as they will be very very hungry.
I have touched on Phil and I of course as well as Rosy and Jake. Sean and Matt were a pleasant surprise. They admittedly had a good draw due to the upset of Dax/Jeff and Mike and Stein, but still beat some very quality teams and took Rosy and Jake down to the wire in the third. I didn't see them play much, but from what I hear, Matt was blocking exceptionally well and Sean was scooping a lot of balls in the back. If they are both doing that and Sean is siding out well, that team is tough.
Dax and Jeff were out of sorts due to an injury to Dax. He messed up his back and was not his normal sideout at 90% kind of guy. Look for them, if healthy, which they should be, to do a lot better in Huntington Beach.
Willy and Casey had another solid tourney and I know they are probably still seething at, in their minds, giving away the match to Rosy and Jake. I am sure in Rosy and Jake's mind they felt they took it from them. At any rate, they are a fun team to watch from both a volleyball and entertainment perspective.
Fred and Anthony had another solid tourney. 9th place. They played us tough but I think they were still feeling it in their next match when they lost to Nick and Billy.
Hyden and Romain were out of sorts. I don't really want to get into that except to say that I for one will be praying for my friend Big George and hope he comes back stronger than ever.
Another notable team was Nick and Billy. They played well and I saw Billy make some tremendous block moves against Fred and Anthony. He had 5 or so blocks in a row and they were impressive.
Is AL-B back? He and the eagle were awfully good in Dallas. It remains to be seen how they keep going but I think the eagle's block is very underated on tour and AL-B looks to be in tremendous shape.
I touched on Larry and Ryan already. They are good and have a big upside.
Ring and Olsen were solid and lost some close games to good teams. Took a 9th. See how they do in the home town of Huntington Beach for Ryan. He was pretty good there last year.
Good tourney for Hans and Scott Wong. Took home a 7th and Scotty took down his brother Kevin in the last match of the day on Friday. I think the third game was 16-14.
I didnt' see Karch and Kevin at all so I can't comment on them.
All I can say on the women's side is "I told you so." Misty and Kerri obliterated everyone for the most part. Not that I was going out on a limb on that one. It had to be expected of the best team over the past 4 or 5 years.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Dallas was a nice venue as far as parking lots go. It was right next to Arlington Stadium where the Texas Rangers play. There were a couple of grassy areas to sit and check out the action and the crowd was pretty good for a first time event. At least the first time in a long time. Hotels were all close by and a bunch of places to eat too. Phil and I hit up the SaltGrass Steakhouse twice in 3 nights. Unbelievably good steaks. Then we would hit up the Steak and Shake for a yummy shake. Could barely waddle much less walk after that but it sure hit the spot.
Playing wise, we were good enough to win. Outside of the finals I did not feel that we were playing our best game. The finals we definitely had our A game going. We received a bye in the first round and then played John Mayer and Brad Keenan. Absolute battle royal as we won something like 24-22 and 21-19. It seemed they hit every line. I give them props, they played really well. Phil and I were the beneficiaries of 3 calls by the ref which may have turned the tide for us. Two of them were chuck sets and they were not argued by Mayer or Keenan as they were good calls. One of them was a double on a bump set out of the net. I thought the ref called a lift and I thought it was a bad call. He asked me about it later and I told him it was definitely not a lift. He said he called a double and I told him I could not tell if that was the case or not. Certainly it was a tight call and a tough one for them.
Our next match on Friday pitted us against Fred Souza and Anthony Medel. It's kind of funny and cool for me to be playing against all these younger guys as I have either coached them, as in the case of Medel in Club Volleyball or coached against them as in the case of Mayer/Keenan when I was at UCSB as an assistant. Really neat to see these guys grow up as people as well as volleyball players. As long as they don't get too good that is. :) Fred and Anthony gave us all we could handle in the first game. Fred was unleashing some serious bombs and had at least 3 aces in the first game. They also grabbed a couple of cheap points on good serves resulting in bad passes by us. I felt pretty good siding out against them and I would say they ended up serving Phil probably 70 percent of the time. Little shocking when I am used to getting 90% of the serves. The first game ended up 22-20 with a bit of a mini comeback by us at the end of the game. The second game they only grabbed one ace by Anthony and we were able to defeat them 21-16.
The semis of the winner yet again put us up against Rosy and Gibb. First game was a battle as they took it 26-24. We had some good chances but a block by Phil that I was all over defensively went out by a foot and they then scooped me to put the game away. The second was not close as we came out strong and took it to the end 21-12. The third was a high level sideout match. They had some early point chances in the beginning of the game and did not convert and we ended up converting our chances by one more than them for 15-13 win.
In the crossover semis we played Ryan Mariano and Larry Witt who were playing outstanding volleyball. They continued that against us by taking the first game 26-24. Larry was siding out at about 11 feet as he was tooling Phil all over the place and going off the top of him. Ryan made some unbelievable plays at the end to win it for them. The last play he scooped Phil on an angle bomb and then put it away with a line shot. The second game was a battle again but Phil really picked up his game at the end of the game and we won 21-18. The third was the same but we sided out at a very high level and didn't give up much in the way of points. I think the score was 15-12. I was really impressed with this team. I expect they will consistantly be in the mix over the course of the year. They both bomb serves, pass and set well, and have very live arms.
The finals were a rematch of Miami. Jake and Rosy squeaked there way in and I do mean squeaked. After they lost to us in the semis they had to play Mark Williams and Casey Jennings. In the third game Casey and Mark were up on the bad side 14-11. Rosy sided out and then they proceeded to score 4 straight points for the win. Great comeback by them and I know it was very disappointing for Mark and Casey.
In the finals we played our best match of the season without question. It was weird, I didn't feel very good going into the finals but once it started it was easy. I will say that Rosy was jumping about 50 inches. He was hitting off the top of Phil with impunity in the first game. He was siding out so well that we started sending some serves Jake's way. He went into a short rut and we were able to establish a lead that we held on for the first game win. In the second game we jumped out to an early 5-2 lead. They came back at the break down 10-11 but we responded well and scored the next several points and continued on to a 21-16 victory. After the first half of game 1 Phil's blocking became nearly perfect. He was technically really good and in the zone so to speak. Made my job easy to dig and he was setting really well so I could see everything in front of me.
So all in all a good tourney. I was glad to get the W in Dallas since I was so close back in 1998 in Dax and my loss to Kent and Jose. Now we get a weekend off to rest and everyone can take stock of what's going on. I look forward to spending time with my wife for her birthday tomorrow and my son this next weekend on his birthday. Should be fun.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Should be yet another battle to get to the winner's circle. Phil and I were talking about how deep the men's side is. Just 2 years ago there was maybe 8 good teams and they rarely lost before they played each other. Now it seems like the second round of the tournament is a battle regardless of who you play. Top teams beware! If you don't come out firing, expect to be battling in the loser's bracket. You can even say the same for the women's side. If I were to lay down a dollar or two though, I would put it all on Misty and Kerri to win with an exclamation point.
Hopefully the crowd will be large and rowdy. Should be interesting since the Rangers are playing all three days that we are playing in their parking lot. Gotta love the parking lot event. Maybe we get a little spill over or fans can come early to the AVP, drink their fill of the slightly cheaper beer, then go into the park for the $10 beers.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
It started off with a 2am wake up call on Friday morning. This of course was my own fault as I booked a 6am flight out of LA on American. It was a great fare and I had to be in Miami early in order to be at a clinic sponsored by Hilton Hotels at 5pm. It was a tough drive, but with my trusty sunflower seeds and water I made it to LAX with plenty of time to spare. The flight itself was actually great. LAX direct to Miami and I slept pretty much the whole way.
It really got tough though on the way home. I flew out of Ft. Lauderdale rather than Miami because for some reason it is much cheaper to fly out of there. I was fortunate that AVP Men's Player, Ryan Mariano and his girlfriend and AVP Women's Player, Saralyn Smith, were on the same flight as I was. They had rented a car and I hopped in for the 20 minute ride to the airport. We were supposed to fly out at 8:37pm but due to weather we left the gate around 9:15. The flight was a US Airways flight operated by America West to Las Vegas. It took us about another 30 minutes to get off the ground and by the time we got into Vegas we only had about 10 minutes to find our next gate. Unfortunately, Vegas is huge. We landed in the A/B Wing and our flight to LAX was out of the C Wing. To get to the C wing you have to go outside security and then re-enter at another part of the airport. Security wasn't even open to get into the C Wing so we were SOL.
We went to the US Airways desk as did about another 50 passengers and after standing in line for 30 minutes and watching everyone scream and yell at the US Airways employees we got our turn. They booked me on a 9:15am flight the next day and Ryan and Saralyn on a 10:45am flight the next day. We called the hotel we had a 50% off coupon for and of course they were "completely booked up." I suggested we charge it and rent a car to get to LAX. $160 bucks later and at 2am we were on our way out of Vegas and on to LAX.
Saralyn took the first 90 minutes and Ryan was the true gentlemen and sat in the passenger seat and kept her awake the entire time. I took the next 90 minutes which ended up being 150 minutes but I was on a roll. We had stopped in Vegas to get sunflower seeds and water and I was cracking the seeds like there was no tomorrow. Ryan and Saralyn got a quick snooze in while I was driving and to Ryan's credit he did wake up at almost exactly 90 minutes into my drive and ask me if I needed to switch. I told him I was on it and good to go. He was out about a minute later.
We made it to LAX a little before 6am. About a 4 hour drive with no traffic. I said my goodbye's and thanks to Ryan and Saralyn as they drove the rental car back to Alamo. I jumped in my car and proceeded to stuff more sunflower seeds in my mouth on the 90 minute drive to SB. Gotta give a shoutout to David for keeping me awake!
I was exhausted but had some stuff to do in SB before I could make the 45 minute drive home to Solvang. I got a painful but deerly needed deep tissue massage. Met with a lawyer to draw up a Living Trust. Then finally went to the gym at UCSB to get a workout in.
Needless to say, after sleeping about a total of maybe 1 hour and being very tired and sore after the tournament, flight, long driving time, and workout, I was utterly exhausted.
Miami was pretty nice from my perspective. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't South Beach, but it was still nice. Conditions were warm if a bit windy and the setup was nice. A bit disappointed in fan attendance but from what I hear it was a late date setup by the AVP and the local promoter, the Miami Heat Group, did not have a lot of time to promote the event. Hopefully next year will be sold out.
Playing wise, Phil and I progressively got better throughout the tourney. Saturday we had a very tough game vs. Doble/Loomis squeaking out the first game 24-22 and the second 21-19. In the first we were down the entire match by 3 or 4 points but came back in the end to win it. In our second round we beat Jennings/Williams in a 3 game battle 21-15, 20-22, 15-12. I think that team will be someone to watch for future successes. They serve well and their ball control is second to none. Mark Williams is a very good blocker and Casey gets a hand on just about everything on defense.
On Sunday we played Jake and Rosy in the semifinals of the winners bracket and won 21-11, 33-31. They must have been warming up in the first game as the second was an absolute battle indicated by the score. We were fortunate to pull that out in two games. In the crossover semis we played Mike Lambert and Stein Metzger. Phil came out exceptionally strong at the net in game 1 as he blocked several balls to open up a 7-2 lead. We maintained that lead throughout the game to win 21-15. The second game was nip and tuck the whole way. We pulled it out 21-19 when Phil squeaked one between Lambo's arms for a sideout and the match. In the finals we beat Jake and Rosy again, 21-16, 21-18. We started off very slowly in each game going down 3-0 each time. We were able to regroup though and caught them midway in each game and passed them down the stretch.
My take on the men's side is Karch is still the most amazing defender to watch play defense. He was stellar all tourney long. He may not jump like he used to, but he still has by far and away the best ball control in the game and at age 46 no less.
Jason Ring and Matt Olsen are the most sick athletic team on tour. Jump out of the gym, hammer balls, and quick as cats. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it up. They certainly have the talent to do so.
I expect Dax and Jeff to do better in Dallas the more Jeff gets his sand legs under him. I also expect them to get better as the season progresses. There is no substitute for practice and they have only been practicing for about 3 weeks or so.
Sean and Matt were a bit of a disappointment in Miami. I am sure they feel that way as well. It will be interesting to see if this team stays together for the whole year. Personally, I think the longer they play together the better they will get. Sean will continue to get better on the right side and their defense and team chemistry will continue to improve. When I first played with Sean I went through the same thing in switching sides. It isn't easy for a lifer on the left side to play right. It takes time to get your trouble shots down. I expect they will be in the winner's mix towards the latter part of the season if they stick it out.
As for the other two top teams. Lambo and Stein are still very very good. Jake and Rosy are still very very good. I expect it will be a battle all season long.
Monday, April 16, 2007
By midway through the first game, it was anyone's guess as to whose streak would end. Although Gibb and Rosie led through the first part of the game, Rogers and Dalhausser would not go away. The teams swapped points until Rogers and Dalhausser caught up and tied it at 10.
After their 10th point, Dalhausser's serve trickled over the net, turned the tide and kicked off a 9-3 run. The University of Central Florida product and Rogers took the game, 21-14.
The second game looked a lot like the first. Gibb and Rosenthal again snagged a quick lead. But after Dalhausser and Rogers took a 4-3 lead, the two teams went point-for-point on the next 13 plays. An unbelievable rally, featuring digs by both Rogers and Dalhausser, left Dalhausser with a sandy bald head but ended the string of alternating points. Dalhausser and Rogers pulled away, and even a 5-2 run by Rosenthal and Gibb at the end of the second game wasn't enough to stop Rogers and Dalhausser from winning their third straight tournament.
Road to the championship: The finals offered an opportunity of a rematch for Gibb/Rosenthal. The No. 3 seed faced Dalhausser/Rogers in the fourth round but saw Dalhausser and Rogers cruised through the first game Sunda,21-11. The second game was a different story. Gibb and Rosenthal eventually fell to the contender's bracket after a marathon match with Dalhausser and Rogers ended at 33-31.
To get to the semifinals, Gibb and Rosenthal had to oust the winningest player of all time, Karch Kiraly, and his partner Kevin Wong.
Dalhausser, the reigning best Offensive Player of the AVP and Rogers, the reigning Best Defensive Player, had a relatively smooth trip to the semifinals. They swept Brent Doble and Ty Loomis, dropped the second game to Casey Jennings and Mark Williams but came back and won the third. They then scored a victory over Gibb and Rosenthal.
Semifinals : In the semifinals, Dalhausser and Rogers faced the No. 1 seeded duo of Stein Metzger and Mike Lambert. Dalhausser and Rogers pulled out to an early 10-4 lead and never looked back, winning, 21-15. In the second game, Metzger and Lambert turned the tables. The Crocs Cup champions stayed ahead early by as many as three, but after an amazing dig by Rogers and a Dalhausser block tied the game at 9, Lambert and Metzger never regained the lead.
Gibb and Rosenthal faced No. 13 Matt Olson and Jason Ring, the Cinderella team on the men's side, for a chance to advance to the finals. Gibb and Rosenthal never trailed, but they also never never led by more than three points until the final point and won, 21-17. Last year's Tempe Open champions never let Olson and Ring in the second game and led by as much as nine in the match. Gibb and Rosenthal advanced to the finals on a 21-14 score.
Dalhausser and Rogers look to make it four in a row in Dallas next weekend.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
We have been practicing against several teams and have been a bit inconsistent although we have played better ball against the better teams. We have certainly held our own but by no means have we been utterly dominant. I keep forcing myself to realize that we are not going to be at the level we were at in August of last year. Perhaps close, but then again, I don't want to be at mid-season peak form in the middle of April.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
So why is Rogers the reigning Most Valuable Player? Chalk one up for the cerebral approach of the Tour's consummate thinking man.
"I think it's an apt description that I'm a thinking man out on the volleyball court," Rogers said. "It's kind of how I was always taught when I first started playing the game. My coaches always said: 'Hey, you can go a lot further if you think it through.'"
Anticipation over sheer athleticism -- it's a concept that Rogers has fully embraced.
"Fortunately, this isn't just a straight athletic game," said the 33-year-old Rogers, who has won three consecutive Best Defensive Player awards. "There's a component of intelligence and thinking about what you are doing. For me, I have a special talent where I can watch someone play and pick up on what they do well, what they do poorly or what they want to do during the game.
"In order to compete, I have to get the opponent out of their comfort zone. I'm not Mike Lambert or Phil Dalhausser, or one of these big guys who can just bring the noise every time and get away with it because of being big and strong."
The cerebral approach has indeed been a golden approach for Rogers, who teamed with Dalhausser to win eight AVP events in 2006. It's a tough act to follow, but the Rogers-Dalhausser combo will give its best shot, beginning with the season-opening event April 13-15 in Miami.
"It was a tremendous year for Phil and me as a team and for me personally," Rogers said. "We want to keep getting better as a team and as individuals. But at the same time, you have to temper the thinking a bit because we recognize that there are some very good teams out there. We'll have to play at least as good if not better to win our fair share of the tournaments this year."
When Rogers reflects on the highlights from the 2006 Tour, three tournaments come to mind. Rogers claimed the God of the Beach title in Las Vegas, celebrated victory at the tradition-rich Manhattan Beach event and got over the hump with a win in his hometown of Santa Barbara.
"I had four second-place finishes there over the last several years, so there was a lot of frustration involved in playing at home in Santa Barbara," Rogers said. "To finally win there was really gratifying. My daughter (Hannah) and wife (Melissa) came running out and gave me a big hug. It was a really special moment for me.
"Winning the God of the Beach title in Vegas shows you are a top player and Manhattan Beach is the granddaddy of them all. Certainly, I was happy to get my name up on the pier."
As they continue to build chemistry, Rogers and Dalhausser have the 2008 Beijing Olympics in mind. They could set themselves up nicely if they achieve the ambitious goal of qualifying this year.
"We'd like to take the path that Kerri (Walsh) and Misty (May-Treanor) had for the last Olympics," Rogers said. "They qualified in 2003 and then in 2004 they could kind of pick and choose which FIVB tournaments they wanted to play in. They were able to set their own course on honing their skills at the international level while limiting travel and focusing on peaking for the Olympics. Hopefully, Phil and I can be in that boat as well. But it's going to be very difficult because the level of play for the men going for the Olympics is exceptionally high."
Rogers expects there will be an added level of excitement on the Tour this year at the 11 events that Karch Kiraly will participate in as he makes his farewell appearances. Kiraly has announced this will be his last year on the Tour.
"I would imagine a lot of beach volleyball fans over the years will try to make sure they hit at least one tournament in their area," Rogers said. "I know he has touched a lot of lives. I'm sure a lot of people he played before when he was in his 20s probably have grown kids now and they'll want to go. Karch probably hears all the time from current young adults who say 'Hey, I saw you play when I was 5 years old.'"
Whether Rogers can repeat as MVP remains to be seen. But it's almost certain that nobody will out-think him.
"A lot of it stems from the fact that I love to coach," Rogers said. "I've been coaching in some form or fashion since I graduated from high school. When you watch that much volleyball, you pick up on things. I know that has been a big factor in the success that I've been able to have."