The Volley Trolley Tour

What started as Jack and Dave's volleyball Tour in '04 has grown into VolleyTrolley Enterprises. We play beach volleyball and cruise around in a 1983 Airstream RV. It ain't terrible.

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Location: Venice Beach, California, United States

Monday, April 14, 2008

Partner Selection 201 -- "Musical Partners"

I had eight and a half months to prepare for the AVP Miami. Ticket from LAX to Ft. Lauderdale? Check. Probable place to crash? Check. Partner? Partner? Well, let's not panic -- there were 15 whole hours before the Monday noon deadline.

Some players stick together. Jenny and Annette haven´t played an AVP event with anyone else throughout their careers. Some players switch it up regularly, looking for a partner with the right tools, chemistry, hook-ups, points. The whole courtship / breakup process is interesting, but one technique stands out as the most daring.

For five years I sat out the Musical Partners dance. I played with John Hribar. Perhaps we both missed out on chances to team up with upgrades in certain areas, but but we always knew who we were arriving with.

We did notice with some envy, however, that players ranked below us were occasionally picked up by a much stronger player. At times it was the Partner Domino Effect where a high-ranking individual drops out last minute and causes a chain reaction of new teams beneath. These new teams usually meant great opportunity for the ´picked up´partners with manageable damage done to the pre-domino relationships.

But there´s always someone playing Musical Partners. Think musical chairs on a dance floor: when the music stops (i.e. the sign-in deadline), you hope the numbers are even and you've made an impression on your target. It's not for the weak of stomach, especially when cross-country flights (or in my case, drives) are involved.

Now if one player decides to keep an eye out for a stray great pick-up, that´s fine. But it´s less fine for that player´s backup partner, who now must jump on the dance floor in case the wandering-eyed partner gets lucky.

My regular AVP partner has a real job. Work required him to take a trip on short notice to Portland, Oregon during the AVP Miami. Portland, Oregon is pretty far from Miami. Once he officially let me know he couldn't play, I began surveying the partners with many more AVP points. One seemed promising, and had 244 points to my 144. We'd be a top-4 seed in the qualifier where four teams get in. But he was playing the same game, and I was his back-up. He had chances to get directly into the Main Draw, so without a commitment, I chassed onto the dance floor.

On Sunday at 9pm PST, I called Florida-based Justin Phipps. He had a solid partner, but was kind enough to point out target for me. “He´s registered, but they might not have enough points to get into the Thursday qualifier,” he said. The target was Dave Dipierro, who lives with my former LA roommate, Donovan Dana. (Their house, whether they knew it or not, was my probable place to crash.) It was too late to politely call Florida, but time was ticking. I texted my former roommate who woke up Dave Diperro who then called me. I asked him to dance with 11 hours to go before the deadline.

Depierro decided to call his registered partner to ask permission to break up. He agreed they probably didn´t have the points to get into the qualifier restricted to 28-teams. Within the hour, he got permission to break up and we were registered online. We left the dance club.

Fifteen minutes after registering, I got a text from Mr. 244. He was still hearing the music. His Main Draw dreams were still leading him on. Could I wait 'til tomorrow morning to decide? I could not. I end up playing the AVP Miami Qualifier, and Mr. 244 ended up not going.

So, was it all worth it? I think reasonable people could disagree.

I had a three-day trip to South Beach. I was wined and dined by my new sponsor, Jose Cuervo on my birthday. I played three incredibly close matches and won the first two. We beat the #6 seed as the #11 seed. We won zero prize money. We feel we played hard and fair, and had a great chance to qualify.

I hope to know who I'm playing future tournaments with a little sooner in the future. I don´t like that part of beach volleyball is making as many calls as possible to sell myself to potential partners. I hope not to find myself on the dance floor. Unless, that is, a monster blocker happens to throw a look my way...


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