Sports

Only gap in volleyball team of John Hyden-Tri Bourne is generational

John Hyden and Tri Bourne are 16 years apart, but together make up a surging beach volleyball duo

Tri Bourne tends to sit quietly when John Hyden, his volleyball playing partner, rattles off movie quotes. It's exciting when he recognizes a line.

"I'll shout out if I finally know one," Bourne says with a grin.

That happens about "one out of 10," Hyden shoots back, laughing.

Pop culture references often don't translate between Bourne, 25, and Hyden, 41. Their 16-year age gap is an unusual dynamic for a beach volleyball duo, as Hyden fills the dual role of teammate and coach.

Hyden, who played at San Diego State and participated in two Olympics as a member of the United States' indoor team, has competed as a beach volleyball professional for 12 years. Bourne, who played indoors for USC, started his pro career on the beach in 2012.

But their combination of youth and experience has merged as they have surged to No. 12 in the FIVB international standings, second among U.S. teams.

Hyden and Bourne have advanced to the knockout rounds of the Asics World Series of Volleyball, an FIVB Grand Slam event in Long Beach this week. They swept their three pool-play matches Wednesday and Thursday.

After just one year playing together they are a team to watch, particularly on near-home, Southern California sand. They recently won their first FIVB World Tour event, the Berlin Grand Slam, and have made $108,800 so far this season.

"It's not the easiest thing to do, but we expect to go out and win every match we play if we're playing to the best of our abilities," Hayden says.

Hyden and Bourne first teamed up for the 2013 Assn. of Volleyball Professionals season after Hyden's former partner, Sean Scott, retired. Hyden and Bourne worked out together in the off-season, and Hyden decided to give Bourne a shot.

"I felt like with a little bit of coaching, he could excel. We're still working on that part," Hyden says, shooting a roguish glance at his partner.

Hyden, who is 6 feet 5, and Bourne, who is 6-6, are both strong blockers. Bourne primarily plays near the net while Hyden digs.

The best beach volleyball duos cultivate the intimate chemistry of a dance team, operating individually but in fluid synchronization. Usually, that kind of connection needs time to grow. However, sometimes the players click immediately, as was the case for the top women's team of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, who have won five FIVB events in their first year together.

The difference with Walsh Jennings and Ross was that they were both veterans of elite competition before they came together. Walsh Jennings won three Olympic gold medals; Ross took home a silver medal from the London Games. Bourne was still new to the professional circuit when he and Hyden dived into domestic AVP competition last year after a limited amount of practice.

Hyden and Bourne had a couple of fifth-place finishes early last season and finished second in each of their final two tournaments. Hyden earned tour honors as the best defensive player, and Bourne was chosen most improved player and newcomer of the year.

Bourne says he has focused absorbing wisdom from Hyden, who he called "easily one of the most knowledgeable players out there."

Away from the sand, Bourne says Hyden has taught him to take better care of himself as an athlete in a sport that requires grueling international travel.

"Pretty much everything you see on the court that we're doing is the result of what we're doing in the gym, the way we're eating, mentally preparing, preparing at practice, getting the proper rest," Bourne says. "All the skills are there. … The instincts are there, we've just got to put in the time off the court to really fine tune everything the way it needs to be."

Hyden hopes the partnership leads him back to the Olympics — this time on the sand.

"I love playing; I love competing," Hyden says. "As long as I can do that without sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, I'm going to keep doing it."

When he and Bourne won the Berlin Grand Slam, Hyden became the oldest player to win a gold medal in FIVB history. He is the oldest player competing in Long Beach this week, closely followed by Brazil's Emanuel Rego, who is six months younger.

"I keep telling [Bourne] I learn something new every year," Hyden says.

Bourne is learning too. He now knows which band plays "Sweet Child O' Mine."

samantha.zuba@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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