Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes, USC’s dominant beach doubles team for the past two seasons, played with different partners at the FIVB Ft. Lauderdale event in mid-February. Hughes finished ninth with Olympian Lauren Fendrick. Claes had to make the main draw through the qualifier with Kelly Reeves, but did so easily and finished 17th. There are many veterans who would like to play with either Hughes or Claes – dangling both domestic and FIVB points as an incentive – but the two Trojans remain committed to one another. They will turn pro May 8 and hope to qualify for this summer’s FIVB World Beach Volleyball Championship in Vienna.
Stanford’s freshman Kathryn Plummer, who helped the Cardinal win a national championship last December on the hardcourt, is considered the top true freshman in the nation on the beach this spring. Cal Poly’s Todd Rogers calls the 6-6 Plummer’s game “remarkably refined” for somebody so young. Expect the combination of Plummer and new head coach Andrew Fuller to move Stanford into the DiG top 20 rankings early into the season.
Speaking of Fuller, he has only been on the Farm as Stanford’s head beach coach for three months and he already has seniority over the indoor program’s head coach. Kevin Hambly was named the replacement for John Dunning in February. Hambly led Illinois to the NCAA Final Four in 2011.
Two pairs of twins are considered to be two of the best combinations in women’s collegiate beach volleyball heading into the 2017 season. Nicole and Megan McNamara of UCLA will play No. 1 for the Bruins in their sophomore season. Madison and McKenna Witt of Arizona have had prolific college careers and will likely be in the mix again their senior season. Torrey Van Winden, who is UCLA’s redshirt freshman sensation, also has a twin sister who is a top player. Van Winden’s sister, Adlee, plays up the coast from Westwood at Cal Poly. Torrey and Adlee are the daughters of a twin. Their mother, Kelly, and aunt Lisa were both top-flight college stars who also played together on the WPVA. Whether there is an advantage to playing with a twin sibling has not been scientifically proven. We do know, however, no set of twins either men or women, have never won an AVP event. Any one of these three duos could be the first to do so.
One of the greatest players of all time, Sinjin Smith, played in more pro events (416) in his career that any other player. He won 139 of those starts. Sinjin does not have a twin sibling, but his brother Andrew is only one year younger. Andrew played in 291 events (winning three), but the Smith brothers never played an open, AVP or FIVB event together. Sinjin turns 60 on May 7 of this year. One month later will mark the 40th anniversary of his first open victory in Manhattan Beach (Marine Street) with partner Mike Normand.
It’s difficult to determine what Iranians thought of the FIVB’s $100,000 3 Star Open in Kish Island held in mid-February. Adam Roberts was one of four American players who travelled to the Middle East during turbulent times. “We were not sure what to expect and thought there might be extra security for Americans,” Roberts says. “It really wasn’t much different than other volleyball tournaments. The people were friendly and the hotel was nice. The only thing a little different was that when we were walking to the courts for practice we had shorts on and they suggested we not show quite so much skin. Other than that, I tend to look back on tournaments and base much of the experience on how well I did, so this one is in trouble in that regard.” Roberts and partner Marty Lorenz lost a three-set match in the qualifier to Jasper Bouter and Tom van Steenis of the Netherlands by scores of 21-17, 16-21, 17-15.