CUT SHOTS: HAWAIIAN PUNCH
By Tom Feuer
Should they or shouldn’t they? Now that the dust has settled on the two pairs that will represent the U.S. in Rio (Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena & Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson), there is another active debate brewing on what the future holds for the immensely talented and fun-to-watch Crabb Brothers, 26-year-old Trevor and his younger sibling, 24-year-old Taylor. The USA beach program is starved for young talent and these two fit the bill, but does it serve our country’s best interest in having them play together?
There is no top international team that has the combination of a 6-4 blocker (Trevor) with a 6-0 defender (Taylor). And, presumably very soon, Tri Bourne is going to need to find another partner as John Hyden finally retires. Bourne, also just 26, is 6-5, an inch or so taller than Trevor, but Tri actually plays bigger with his superior blocking technique. Trevor can go “Hawaiian Style,” so the debate over who plays the left or right side is a moot issue, and Trevor has patrolled behind a block before. I could see two Olympic cycles in the future for this team.
Or, do you have Taylor Crabb, at this point a more natural defender than his brother, play behind Bourne, and have Trevor match-up with the 7-1 Avatar, Ryan Doherty? The good news is that because of the huge emergence of the “Sand Crabbs” and the ever more experienced Bourne the future is getting much brighter for USA Beach Volleyball on the men’s side of the ledger.
Now, lets get back to the present where there is plenty to talk about. This week in Hamburg, Germany is the final qualifying tournament to get the automatic bids to the Olympic Games before the complicated Continental Cup process takes place. There are still some major issues to address. First off, can Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat hold on? It would appear so. They have to finish in the top 17 and right now they are 15th and realistic prospects appear slim that three teams will pass them. The best team on the list behind them is probably Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia. They pushed Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross to the limit in the final in Cincinnati last month. However, the Chinese pair will not have the minimum 12 tournaments necessary to get the automatic qualification.
Also, it appears as if Karla Borger and Britta Buthe will get the second German spot unless they have a disastrous showing in Hamburg. They have a 430 point margin on Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler. With the top 12 finishes over the last two seasons counting, Holtwick and Semmler could increase their point total a maximum 650 points by winning in their home country this week. However, Borger and Buthe will start to add to their totals with any finish better than a 17th.
Once all the qualifying shenanigans are over, the next big event will be the Olympic draw scheduled to be held in Gstaad in early July. Players already guaranteed berths in the Games now turn their attention to the dicey business of seeding. Walsh Jennings and Ross are favorably situated. They will probably be ranked third and thus avoid, in all likelihood, a match-up with Brasil’s Larissa and Talita until the gold medal match unless one team or the other falters in pool play.
The “second” Brasilian team Agatha and Barbara, the reigning World Champions, will probably alight as the number two seeds and so would be on a potential collision course with Kerri and April. However, this Brasilian team has been anything but sharp this season. They have finished 5th and 17th in the two Grand Slams and 9th and 3rd in their two Opens. Unless they have timed a late season peak I would be very concerned if I was a Brasilian fan. Among their losses was a real head scratcher to Emily Stockman and Amanda Dowdy of the U.S. I bet a few people reading this blog might have never heard of that American team with all due respect.
Meanwhile, sitting on the bench for the gold and yellow are Elize Maia and Eduarda Lisboa who have two wins and a second already this season. Lisboa, otherwise know in beach circles as Duda is only 17. We could see her AND the Crabb Brothers in Tokyo in four years.
Tom Feuer has been a close observer of the sport since 1976. He currently works as the Director of Arizona State’s Cronkite Sports Bureau in Santa Monica, CA and is a Professor of Practice. Prior to that, he was the Executive Producer for Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket in Los Angeles and has won three National Emmy Awards for his work in television.