FIVB Announces Awards Following 2019 Beach Volleyball Year
With the Rome World Tour Finals wrapping up the 2019 beach volleyball season in early September, the votes are in for the majority of the FIVB awards. The awards, similar to how the AVP does it, are voted for by the players.
Here’s who is coming home with some extra decorations this season:
FIVB Most Improved
Julius Thole, Clemens Wickler, Germany
The young Germans made their first big impression last year at the Hamburg Major. In a season in which they failed to qualify in three consecutive tournaments, Thole and Wickler blitzed through the field in front of their home crowd in Germany, nearly pulling off a massive upset over Anders Mol and Christian Sorum in the semifinals. They lost, 9-15, in the third set, but the message was clear: Thole and Wickler were a team that could compete with anyone.
That proved to be true during the entire 2019 season, as the two locked in FIVB Most Improved. They captured second at the season-opening tournament at The Hague, and then, in front of their home crowd once more, they dazzled with another silver in Hamburg. They’d medal twice more, with a bronze in Moscow and a silver at the Rome World Tour Finals.
Tina Graudina, Anastasija Kravcenoka, Latvia
Outside of Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan, and April Ross and Alix Klineman, it’s difficult to imagine a team that had a more momentous year than the young Latvians. Competing in their second year on the world tour, the two shocked the field in Haiyang, China, at the Olympic qualification tournament, winning their first FIVB tournament, sealing up a bid to the 2020 Olympics in the process.
Graudina had already decided to redshirt this season at USC, with designs on taking off school in 2020 to attempt to qualify. Now she gets to relax a bit, with a spot shored up, and an award in hand as the FIVB Most Improved team.
FIVB Best Offensive Player
Anders Mol, Norway
The funny thing about the best offensive players is that they rarely get to play any actual offense. Few teams are bold enough — or unwise enough — to serve Anders Mol, and when they do, it is typically followed by regret, a shake of the head, and the understanding that giving him the ball is not the smartest of moves.
In spite of how few offensive opportunities Mol was given throughout the year, the 22-year-old Norwegian still claimed Best Offensive Player, along with a host of other awards, which we’ll get to momentarily.
Duda Lisboa, Brazil
One of the single most impressive offensive performances of the beach volleyball season came, oddly enough, in a match that Duda Lisboa lost. In the semifinals of the Jinjiang four-star, playing against Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, Duda took over as much as a single player can, even when the Americans were doing everything they could to take her out of the match.
She’d option when optioning seemed like it wasn’t an option at all. She’d bury swings from virtually anywhere on the court, taking the burden off of her partner, the veteran Agatha, as much as she could. It proved unsustainable — barely — for Duda to maintain it for the entire match, but it was an indelible performance, and one that she repeated time and time again throughout a season in which she won a pair of tournaments and finished second at the Rome World Tour Finals.
FIVB Best Blocker
Anders Mol, Norway
It is one of the most mutual signs of respect, when one of your opponents, whom you’ve beat in some of the biggest matches of your career, lauds you on social media upon winning an award. Such was the move made by Taylor Crabb when Mol was awarded his second straight FIVB Best Blocker award.
Crabb posted a video, and then a series of pictures illustrating the ridiculousness of the move made by Mol, of Mol blocking Crabb in the bronze medal match of the Rome World Tour Finals. It’s a move that is nearly impossible for most humans to make, yet it’s one that Mol made with regularity, on opponents of all shapes and sizes, one of many reasons he won Best Blocker for the second time in as many years.
Sarah Pavan, Canada
One of the most thrilling aspects to the 2019 season was the rapid ascent of Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan. They were already a phenomenal team, no doubt about that. Yet this year, they reached an entirely different level.
Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes finished in the top five in all but one tournament this year, winning in Hamburg, Vienna and Edmonton. In claiming gold in Hamburg, they sealed up their bid for the Olympics, which will be Pavan’s second on the beach and Humana-Paredes’ first.
A huge reason for that is, it seems obvious, Pavan’s blocking. At 6-foot-5, she is one of the tallest women on the FIVB, making for nightmarish matchups for every team and, critically, the other best team in the world in April Ross and Alix Klineman.
FIVB Best Defender
Christian Sorum, Norway
Tired of Norwegians yet? Better get used to it. Christian Sorum and Anders Mol are going to be around for a long, long time. At just 22 and 23 years old, Sorum and Mol have twice swept the awards for Best Defender and Best Blocker, and with good reason.
What Mol doesn’t block, Sorum digs. And what Sorum doesn’t, dig, Mol blocks. And what neither of them touch is considered a small miracle that must be repeated 21 times in order to win just a set off of them.
While Mol gets — and deservedly so — the lion’s share of the credit for this teams success, Sorum quietly goes about his business. He gets nearly every serve, converting at a rate so high that teams occasionally sampled Mol in serve-receive a bit more this season. He digs balls as much as any defender, and yet what makes him so good is his ability to put away those digs for points, a critical and sometimes overlooked element of being a top defender.
Offense, ironically, is vital to being an effective defender, and Sorum is world-class at both.
Melissa Humana-Paredes, Canada
Melissa Humana-Paredes is as lovely as she is deadly. An assassin with a smile. She’ll play for an entire hour with a smile on her face, and that won’t stop her from digging more balls than anybody else in the world.
It is her ability to dig more balls than anyone that pushed Pavan to take a shot on Humana-Paredes in 2017, following a split with Heather Bansley. Humana-Paredes was then a brilliant yet unproven talent. Now, there is nothing that is unproven about her.
In 2017, Humana-Paredes was awarded Most Improved, and in 2018, she took home Best Setter. Now she’s cleaning up Best Defender, while her blocker has raked in Best Blocker, making for the single most difficult team against which to score.
While we’re on the topic…
FIVB Most Outstanding Team
Melissa Humana-Paredes, Sarah Pavan, Canada
Surprise, surprise. Who would have thought that the team with the Best Blocker, Best Defender, Best Setter, and potentially Most Outstanding Player, could have won Most Outstanding Team.
Crazy, I know.
With how deep the women’s field is — and it is considered by many to be as deep as it’s ever been — this is no small accomplishment to win Most Outstanding Team, particularly considering the fact that they are doing things no Canadian team has ever done.
No Canadian team had ever won a major. No Canadian team had ever won a World Championship. Pavan and Humana-Paredes did it in one fell swoop. Then they became the first All-Canadian Manhattan Beach Open champions, and though that did not contribute to their winning the FIVB Most Outstanding, it’s simply worth noting.
There are still more awards to come, and we’ll update with additional stories as the FIVB releases the information.
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