p1440 Men’s Beach Volleyball Power Rankings No. 2
Note: The initial version of these rankings did not include Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy. Thanks to Ed Keller for pointing that out. They had initially been No. 2, and when I swapped them out for Dalhausser and Lucena, I didn’t put them back in. Now they’re back.
These rankings are becoming an almost impossible task. We’re now in a world where qualifiers have made two consecutive finals — first with Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi, then with Chileans Marco and Esteban Grimalt — and gold medalists and world champs are finishing seventeenth. It’s what so beautiful about this sport in its current phase, where maybe 15 different teams, and possibly more, can win on any given weekend. That’s all a prelude to me saying: These rankings could be somewhat accurate today and totally worthless tomorrow. This is a top 10, sure, but 25 or so teams could have an argument to be included in this list. By the time the next four-star rolls around, in Xiamen at the end of April, who knows what state the game will be in. At the very least, it’s fun to follow.
1. Anders Mol, Christian Sorum, Norway The one spot will go to these two for as long as Mol is out with an injury. I simply can’t bring them down any spots until we see Anders back at the net again. To Sorum’s credit, too, he played well with Anders’ brother, Hendrik – a physical and talented blocker in his own right – nearly beating Chileans Marco and Esteban Grimalt before they went on to win the gold medal. https://www.instagram.com/p/BvCj9Nuni2N/
2. Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, U.S.A. The most devoted readers of these rankings – all 10 of you – may recall that Dalhausser and Lucena were left off of the initial 2019 power rankings. Honestly, I just didn’t know what their plans were. Maybe they were retiring. Maybe they were just playing domestically. Maybe they were making a run at it. Now it’s confirmed they are, and with a healthy Lucena and a hungry Dalhausser back and playing well, they’re right behind the Norwegians at the top of the world. https://www.instagram.com/p/BvMx7DgFU1u/
3. Oleg Stoyanovskiy, Viacheslav Krasilnikov, Russia Earlier this year, at The Hague, this team looked as if they could be the best in the world, for they did, indeed, beat the best in the world, smacking around Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, 21-12, 21-13. Stoyanovskiy, a 6-foot-9 22-year-old, has as much untapped talent as any blocker or even player in the world right now, and with Krasilnikov, a gritty, physical defender behind him, this is as likely a team to finish tops in the world as any. https://www.instagram.com/p/BuMZgIsBjiR/
4. Michael Bryl, Grzegorz Fijalek, Poland Last year was a bit of a breakout for Bryl, a 6-foot-6 blocker who, alongside Grzegorz Fijalek – unofficially known as Polish Todd Rogers – made three finals, in Vienna, Germany and p1440 Las Vegas, to close the season. In a brief sample this year, he looks phenomenal – more physical offensively and defensively, jumping higher, hitting harder, making more scramble and hustle plays. Finals were a bit of a surprise for these two last year. They’ll be no such Cinderellas from here on out. https://www.instagram.com/p/BQV4L9hF7I2/
5. Daniele Lupo, Paolo Nicolai, Italy These guys are just so smooth, so controlled, so difficult to beat. Rarely do they ever give away points, and with Lupo running those tempo sets out of the middle and Nicolai demolishing those outside sets he loves, a team has to play virtually flawless volleyball to beat them. It explains why they so rarely finish worse than fifth – as impressive a feat as any on the world tour – and why, in any tournament they enter, they’re favorites to win. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bu_wzhZjjyo/
6. Adrian Gavira, Pablo Herrera, Spain Team Consistent remains, as always, consistent. These guys just keep on piling up medals, the most recent being a bronze in Doha. Similar to the Italians, they rarely beat themselves by making errors or uncharacteristic plays. In two events this year, they’ve taken fifth and a bronze. https://www.instagram.com/p/BvEuMEdnD7w/
7. Piotr Kantor, Bartosz Losiak, Poland These guys remain as fun to watch as they are good at beach volleyball. While they’ve toned down their shoot-setting and crazy tempos, they’ve introduced spread passing on easier serves, moving the blocker all the way over to the pin, posing the threat of an option. If the blocker follows, they just run an outside set all the way back over to the other side of the court. If not, they rip an option. Their constant tinkering is exactly why, in 2018, they had their most successful season in their wildly successful partnership, and why 2019 doesn’t look to be any different. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bu_qgbWHe-R/
8. Alex Brouwer, Robert Meeuwsen, Netherlands The Dutch Bash Brothers won a career-high three events in 2018, and while it would be borderline insane to expect any team to win three major – “major” being four- and five-stars – events this year, they are one of the teams who could do it. A tough, 17th place finish in Doha, yes, but all of their matches went to three sets, and both of their losses were 15-13 in the third. Not a cause for much concern for these two. https://www.instagram.com/p/BuEclAKFET-/
9. Julius Thole, Clemens Wickler, Germany Wickler is going to be an exciting player to watch in the years to come. Just 23 years old and in his second year on the FIVB, he’s a digging machine behind the 21-year-old Thole, who’s massive 6-foot-9 block (possibly bigger) provides an excellent window for Wickler to sit behind. In their first tournament of the year, at The Hague, they took silver, and in their second, in Doha, they knocked off Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb before losing an excellent match to Italians Nicolai and Lupo. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bu_sqmenTcf/
10. Jake Gibb, Taylor Crabb, United States These two have been fairly quiet over the off-season and decided to skip Doha. In their two events in 2019, they’ve taken a fifth and a fifth, with their lone loss in Sydney coming to Americans Billy Allen and Stafford Slick. Once they get back into the swing of things full-time, I’d expect Gibb and Crabb to be regularly contending for medals. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bt6mymMHodv/
Honorable Mention: Aleksandrs Samilovs, Janis Smedins, Latvia What an odd showing from these two in Doha. After an excellent 2018, they looked as bad as a beach team of their caliber could look. First they got whacked by Estonia’s Kusti Nolvak and Mart Tisaar, 14-21, 18-21, and then were worked by Bourne and Crabb, finishing 25th. Maybe one was hurt or maybe it was just an off tournament. Certainly not enough to take them out of the rankings, but enough to move them down a bit. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bu_BsrMhqEh/ Some of you may be wondering: Where are the Grimalts? Did they not just win the last two events? Yes, yes they did. But two events, no matter how good, is still just two events. I’m not ready to crown them Tokyo 2020 favorites just yet. Should they sustain this type of play then yes, they will be in the next power rankings. Time will tell.
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