FIVB Sydney: Adrian Carambula's back!

Beach Volleyball is Better With Adrian Carambula in it

Adrian Carambula

It seemed the gimmick was up. The skyballs. The quick sets. The shoot sets. The over-sets. The jump shoots. The brash and swaggering streetball style of play from the inimitable Adrian Carambula, it seemed, had expired.

A fun run through the 2016 Olympics, complete with all of the aforementioned bits of volleyball entertainment, with the added bonus of the borderline freakish athleticism of Alex Ranghieri, was, it appeared, at its close. Two years of an unusual style before it was figured out.

They took ninth in Rio, knocked out in the first round of elimination by Italians and eventual silver medalists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai. The morons on ESPN called his signature skyball serve a “sixth grader’s serve.” But perhaps they had a point. Maybe time was up.

The following season, Carambula and Ranghieri played in six events. They didn’t finish higher than ninth.

In 2018, with Ranghieri hurt or, when healthy, playing with Marco Caminati, Carambula took to the relatively unknown Gabriele Pasquale.

They didn’t make a single main draw.

All that aside, there was still no uncertain level of intrigue when “Carambula/Rossi” appeared on the entry list for this weekend’s 3-star FIVB in Sydney. Carambula just has that effect: Whether he’s winning or losing, you’re going to watch him play. Even when Steph Curry is in a shooting slump, you still know, on any given night, something special could happen.

And goodness gracious if you had been in Sydney — or streaming it online — would you have seen a show this weekend.

Gone was Carambula’s once-noticeable layer of what we’ll call “not weight lifting” and present, suddenly, were lean muscles, lithe movements, a tireless defense and an exhausting style of offense that wore every other team down but only seemed to energize Carambula and Enrico Rossi, who had been Caminati’s partner while Ranghieri was hurt.

They made it through both qualifier matches before blitzing pool play, claiming the top spot in four sets over Australians Damien Schumann and Cole Durant and Austrians Tobias Winter and Julian Horl.

But it’s the quarterfinals you really should see. It would be wrong to say this looked like the Carambula of old, because that would almost seem almost an insult. This was a level of Adrian Carambula, of Mr. Skyball, we hadn’t seen just yet.

This was Adrian Carambula 2.0.

They played a nearly flawless match against Americans Ryan Doherty and John Hyden. They ran back shoot sets with such precise accuracy it really is difficult to describe, particularly in the conditions presented at Manly Beach.

By the end of it, Doherty may not have known left from right and up from down, and that’s not even an insult to Doherty. That’s just how good Carambula and Rossi played.

“Defense against the dark arts,” is how Stafford Slick, who lost to Carambula in the semifinals, described it. Slick’s a good friend of Carambula’s, his first big pickup on the AVP Tour. Together, they made three Sundays on the AVP before Carambula declared that he was going to go play for Italy, make the Olympics.

Could have seemed a bit laughable at the time, considering he had never played an international event.

And then, two events later, in Porec, Croatia, Carambula and Ranghieri played 10 matches, beat men with names such as Rego and Santos, Rosenthal and Slick, Krasilnikov and Semenov, Evandro and Pedro, before knocking off the Dutch team of Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst for bronze.

That’s the Carambula we’re seeing again, only possibly even better. He and Rossi came out of the qualifier in Sydney and made it all the way to the finals. They lost, sure, to Chileans Esteban and Marco Grimalt, but that’s hardly the point.

“Feels good to play good b-volley again,” he wrote on Instagram.

As far as the rest of the world is concerned – except those who have to take lessons in defense against the dark arts – it feels good to watch Carambula playing good beach volley again.