Karissa Cook, Jace Pardon Win First Career AVP Titles in Their Own Fantastic Style
Somewhere in Santa Cruz, there is a group of older gentlemen grinning. The group that Karissa Cook once learned how to play volleyball – “old fart volleyball,” as she once called it. She learned the game on those beaches, finding the unconventional and sometimes – subjectively – “dirty” ways of scoring. Didn’t matter if it was on two or one or setting or digging or swinging or poking or hitting jumbos or cut shots or even, God forbid, a traditional swing.
She’d find a way, any way, to score on those old farts.
She’s 28 now, Cook. Far from qualifying as an old fart, though she happily admits, with a grin, that she plays like one. Any evidence you’d need you can find on Amazon Prime. Go watch the replay of Cook and Jace Pardon’s semifinals and finals, two straight-set wins en route to their first career AVP titles. Count how many ways they found to score, then count again, though we don’t advise you make a drinking game out of it.
It’s a lot.
“How many skills,” wondered Kevin Barnett on the Amazon Prime livestream before the first switch of the final, “did we see from Karissa Cook in the past 25 seconds?”
Many. In a single play. There was a smooth move into the angle, a dig off a soft block, a sprint into blocking in transition, a fake line block to a dive angle block. All that and it was, relative to the dozens of wacky and weird and wonderful skills and shots and pokes and all manner of scoring methods, nothing.
By the end of AVP Austin, there was nothing left for Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon to show. Or maybe there is. Who knows. Nobody could ever be sure exactly how they would score this weekend, only that they would.
“So much fun to watch this pair,” emcee Mark Schuermann said, presciently, during the introductions. “They might get a little bit weird. Who needs three contacts? Not these two, but that’s fine. That’s just fine.”
Oh, was it fine, alright. Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn, those plucky underdog qualifiers who could, toppling one higher seeded team after the next, had no answers for the unconventional team across the net, though really how could they?
They hit cut shots that tagged lines. They hit high angle jumbos that tagged back corners. They snuck in option after option, in every imaginable way possible. Occasionally they – mostly Pardon, the more physical player of the two — even swung over the block and around the block and under the block and through the block and off the block. Just to keep them honest.
“You have to love the way Cook and Pardon just put points together,” Camryn Irwin, Barnett’s partner on Amazon, said on the livestream. And what you really have to love is that they kept putting them together, and putting them together, and putting them together some more.
They put them together despite this only being their second tournament as a team. They put them together despite it being their first finals as individuals. They put them together despite it being Pardon’s first career Sunday.
And if that final showed nothing else, it showed the value of the magnetic ball control of Cook and Pardon, who were in system on almost every serve receive, who kept most every dig under control, who had a scoring opportunity on almost every second touch, should they have chosen to take it.
“Am I surprised Cook and Pardon are just carving up another opponent?” Barnett wondered as Cook and Pardon opened up an 11-4 lead in the first set. “That’s what they’re just doing. You keep thinking their next opponent has the tools to stop them but Cook and Pardon just carve them up in different ways. Oh, what’s this? A Christmas ham? Thanksgiving turkey? Gone, no problem. Let’s move onto the next round.”
The next round is exactly what they continued doing. Following a three-set loss to Terese Cannon and Irene Pollock in the second round, they battled past Amanda Dowdy and Corinne Quiggle, Brittany Howard and Kelly Reeves, Meghan Mannari and Taylor Nyquist, and Cannon and Pollock again in the semifinals.
They did it as the only split-blocking team on the women’s side, showing teams the unfamiliar look that only Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb have done on the AVP thus far in 2019.
Old fart, hood rat volleyball is how Cook once described her style of play. Winning volleyball may be more accurate, though “dirty,” “filthy” – in the most complimentary of ways – were also used. Whatever it was, whether it be dirty or filthy or unconventional or hood rat or old fart, it was downright fun, and it was unquestionably effective, as Cook and Pardon won their first career AVP titles.
“I knew Karissa is legit and I was super stoked to play with her,” Parson said amid, a bottle of champagne at the ready. “I’m going to cry because it’s such a special moment.”
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