On most FIVB World Tour events across the globe, the depth of the sand is almost never an issue.
At the World Series of Beach Volleyball, however, it’s a strategy-defining factor.
In the first men’s semifinal match on the final day of the WSOBV in Long Beach, Canadians Sam Pedlow and Sam Schachter used the shallower-than-normal sand to their advantage in their come-from-behind three-sets (16-21, 21-15, 15-11) victory over Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland.
After dropping the first set to the Polish duo, who are well known on tour for their misdirectional style of play, Pedlow and Schachter knew that something had to change. They decided that Pedlow would be more aggressive over the net to help take the pressure off of Schachter, who was tasked with digging, transitioning, and siding out on almost every play.
The strategy shift was aided by the fact that Long Beach is a “hitters beach,” according to Pedlow.
“This is a hitters beach, so you gotta get up in their face,” he said. “Hermosa, for example, is really, really deep, so it’s a shooters beach because the guys can’t run as fast. You can chip the ball and he’s not gonna be able to run it down. Here if you chip the ball, he can grab onto the sand pretty quick and move. But if you get up there, you’re so high you can just hit it straight down.”
The Canadians said they were also helped by their familiarity with Losiak and Kantor. They frequently train with the Polish volleyball players throughout the year.
“I think that’s why every time we play them it’s so close, because we know each other so well. I think Piotr and I are very similar players. No one is like Bartosz though,” he said with a laugh.
In the gold-medal match, Pedlow and Schachter faced off against Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who in the other semifinal easily handled fellow Americans Theodore Brunner and Casey Patterson in straight sets (21-11, 21-19).
Against the 6-foot-9 Dalhausser, however, the Canadians struggled mightily.
The six-time Association of Volleyball Professionals “Best Blocker of the Year” used his lengthy frame to bat away plenty of shots from Pedlow and Schachter at the net, helping himself and Lucena cruise to a straight-sets victory to win the Presidents Cup (21-18, 21-15.)
The Americans set the tone in the first set, taking advantage of Dalhausser’s height and Lucena’s athleticism to jump out to an early 11-3 lead in front of a raucous crowd. Dalhausser says that the key to him being able to block so effectively is the fact that he is able to focus on both the ball and the hitter.
“The big misconception is that you just watch the ball the whole time,” he said. “You watch the ball and you put your body in the right position and then you watch the hitter and see if you can pick up anything on what he’s gonna do. And that’s hard to do because you lose sight of the ball, it’s kind of in your peripheral. So that’s the main thing for me.”
Against Pedlow and Schachter, he says that he and Lucena had to add just a bit of deception to their strategy as well.
“These guys are both good offensive players and we were trying to make moves. We almost made moves on every block, which means kind of showing them one thing, then dive the other way, and it happened to work.”
Follow Tyler Blint-Welsh on Twitter @tylergabriel_