Jose Cuervo Hermosa Beach Open

Posted on August 5, 2012 · Posted in Beach Volleyball

Hermosa Beach is one of the most famous spots for beach volleyball enthusiasts. It is also known for its deep sand, which presents a challenge even for the most experienced players. Coincidentally the beach was chosen as the first California stop of the 2012 Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Tour and all the best players in the US were looking forward to showing their skills here.I teamed up with Bartek Bachorski – a very good and very experienced Polish player who has been living in the US for a long time. He lives in Chicago now so we had very little time to practice together. He arrived in California the day before the qualifier and we only had about an hour of practice before our first match. I was pleased that we were on the same page about a lot of the aspects of the game and strategy. He is 6’5” – as tall as me but we decided that I would block most of the time and he would play defense.

We started the tournament as the #22 seed out of 45 teams in the qualifier with 8 teams advancing to the main draw. We had to play and win two matches in order to make it to Saturday and luckily our seed allowed us to skip the first round and an extra match. Having a relatively low seed meant that we would have to play 2 higher seeded teams. Our first opponents were #11 Gregan/Davis. They are a very good and familiar team with excellent chemistry. The first set was point for point as our side-out game was solid but we had some difficulty scoring points.  We took the set 22:20 with a block, which set the tone for the second set, where I blocked a few balls and Bartek scored with some good serves. We were up 20:15 at the last switch and we closed the match steadily with a nice set by Bartek and a high line swing off the block by me. We were both very happy and pleased that our first match together resulted in a win against a good and dangerous team.

My successful blocking continued at the same time and with Bartek’s steady play and good digs we were up 14:7 and comfortably closed the first set 21:17. The second set started well for us but the other team started to settle down after our initial blitz. Also the breeze quieted down and our serving lost its edge. Missing 5-6 serves added to our serving troubles.

The set was point for point and we were down 17:18 at the switch to the “bad” side. Bartek sided out the next ball and I went to the serve line. The following point played a big role in the outcome of the set. I tried to block and slowed down Bourne’s hit which gave Bartek time to get to the ball. He saw an opening on the other side and decided to bump it over on 2 instead of setting me in transition. That’s a great idea but the next thing I saw was the ball flying into the middle of the net on our side! From the corner of my eye I saw Jeff and Tri starting to celebrate and I realized that the play was not over and we had one more touch to send the ball over. The only problem was that the ball was falling down on our side and about to hit the sand. I was still 5-6 feet away from the net and dove towards the ball as fast as I could. From that position very close to the net, the only way to send the ball over was with a very high angle and trajectory. I reached under the ball and bumped it right before it touched the sand with just the right velocity and angle. The next thing I saw was the other team celebrating while the ball fell in the middle of their side! The ref blew the whistle and the point was ours – 19:18! Our opponents were quite shocked at this outcome and in frustration one of them kicked the ball far away, showing solid soccer skills. The ref was visibly displeased with this sudden outburst and “rewarded” it promptly with a red card! This penalty came at the wrong time for the other team and it resulted in a direct point for us – 20:18. The next point was a block for us and the win was ours! Thus we qualified for the main draw on the following day.

Bartek and I came into this qualifier with many years of playing experience between us but with only an hour experience together. It was great that we clicked together as a team under the tough circumstances – in a Hermosa Beach Pro qualifier. We were became the #32 seed in the main draw and were anxious and happy to play the #1 seed of the tournament Hyden/Scott on the following day.

We played well in the beginning of the match and we were 11:10 at the switch. Hyden/Scott served and defended really well and we did not win the match.

We had another chance against the #16 seed Placek/McCollogh. Our strategy worked really well and my blocking was productive again. We jumped to an early lead and won the first game comfortably 21:17. The second set started in a similar fashion but our experienced opponents changed their hitting strategy and started primarily to shoot the ball over the block. We did not adjust in time and the deep sand and 2 days of playing started to take its toll on us physically. Our side-out game started to suffer and we lost the match in 3 sets, which put us in 25th place. A small consolation for Bartek and I was the fact that the teams we lost to took 1st and 3rd place in the tournament overall!

It was blast playing the Jose Cuervo Hermosa Beach Open. Bartek and I had a lot of good emotions and maybe our new partnership will have more opportunities for success this summer!

 CLICK HERE for the complete picture gallery!