New partnerships debut at The Hague

Men’s side, new partnerships off to wild start in The Hague

Miles Evans-Billy Kolinske-The Hague

And so it begins. Not just the 2019 season. No, that’s technically – and weirdly – been going since September. But what has begun is the first look at new partnerships – happy New Year to you, Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger. The first look at new faces with exciting names – looking at you, Mihails Samoilovs, the 20-year-old Latvian making just his fourth FIVB main draw. The first new look at Italy’s Alex Ranghieri, who missed the 2018 season with an injury. The first look at, well, complete and total chaos on the men’s side, an extension of a wild, parity-filled 2018 season.

Just four days into the new year, there is already a bona fide candidate for match of the year, which happened to be the first in the Patterson-Budinger partnership. The Rio Olympian and former NBA player topped fellow Americans Miles Evans and Billy Kolinske, 32-30, 23-25, 17-15 in what is the longest match of the tournament thus far (1 hour, 8 minutes). 

Both teams went on to play another white-knuckler, Patterson-Budinger falling to hosts Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meewusen, 20-22, 26-28. Evans-Kolinske, meanwhile, responded with a 27-25, 18-21, 17-15 win over Lithuania’s Robert Juchnevic and Artur Vasiljev to break pool.

While Patterson-Budinger’s new partnership is off to an auspicious start, another U.S. debut, Reid Priddy and Theo Brunner, began a bit flat, with consecutive losses to Germany’s Alexander Walkenhorst-Sven Winter (19-21, 9-21) and the Dutch’s Mees Blom and Yorick de Groot (16-21, 21-18, 16-18).

While thrilling matches were abound in pool play, at the end of the day, the dominant teams of 2018 remained so to begin the 2019 season. Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, owners of nearly every international award there was to win in 2018, didn’t drop a set. Neither did Brouwer and Meeuwsen, who were, at one point early last year, the top team in the world. Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak, finalists in this tournament a year ago, won both of their matches, as did Russia’s top team in Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy.

Heading into bracket play, the U.S. still has Patterson-Budinger and Kolinske-Evans, both of whom will play a Dutch team in the first round. Patterson-Budinger will play Blom and de Groot, where the winners will match up with Krasilnikov-Stoyanovskiy, while Evans-Kolinske will see Jasper Bouter-Ruben Penninga to play in against the Polish.

On the women’s side, remaining for the U.S. – at the time of this writing — is Kelly Claes-Sarah Sponcil, Kerri Walsh Jennings-Brooke Sweat, and reigning Hague champs Alix Klineman-April Ross.

Betsi Flint and Emily Day were felled by friendly fire, losing to Claes-Sponcil, 21-13, 19-21, 9-15. Claes-Sponcil will play Spain in the quarterfinals.

Kelly Reeves and Brittany Howard dropped to Japan, 18-21, 14-21.