San Jose

p1440 San Jose Day One Recap

San Jose Recap

It was almost adorable, the giant Olympian, he of a gold and bronze medal, of multiple Olympic Games going up against the 6-foot-8 one with a barrel of a chest and arms fit for a defensive end, being in sheer awe of the diminutive Olympian he had just beat.

David Lee didn’t know that Alexander Huber, a 33-year-old from Klagenfurt, had played in the Rio Olympics. And he hadn’t just played, either. No, he, alongside partner Robin Seidl, had dealt the backbreaking blow to Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, 21-18, 21-18 in the second round of pool play.

“Are you serious?” Lee asked, genuinely surprised. “I beat an Olympian?”

Indeed, the indoor Olympian felled the beach Olympian in the first round of the contender’s bracket at p1440’s debut event in San Jose. It was one of a number of, at the very least, intriguing and exciting and what-could-possibly-happen-next results.

The first round of the contender’s bracket for the men alone featured names like Sean Rosenthal and Harley Marques, the former a two-time Olympian and one of the best players in United States history, the latter a two-time world tour MVP and the 2008 World Champion. Scroll down and you’ll see other enormous names like Ricardo Santos, the most decorated blocker in history, and Alvaro Filho, a major champ, not to mention Canadian Josh Binstock, a two-time Olympian, and Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty, both of whom have won multiple AVP titles.

All of that—in the first round of the contender’s bracket?

“I think it’s great to have these international teams to raise the level for everybody,” said Billy Kolinske, who went 3-0 on the day with Miles Evans, beating Paul Araiza and Travis Mewhirter, Allen and Doherty and Jeremy Casebeer and Reid Priddy. “It’s not always the same up and down sets. They do a lot of different things that the Americans can learn a lot from.”

It seems that Kolinske and Evans have taken a few notes in their year and a half overseas after sitting out the AVP season. They’re the only American team left in the winner’s bracket, joining Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, Spaniards Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira and Latvians Martins Plavins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs.

“We’ve been waiting on this for two years now,” Kolinske said. “It’s amazing to be in the U.S. playing volleyball—you can just take an hour flight instead of 15 hours for maybe just one match in the country quota. We’ve seen Norway play so many times it’s exciting to get to play against them.”

That match begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday and will be livestreamed, along with every other match on every other court, on p1440’s app and website. One of the more fun matches to watch will be, of very little surprise, Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ quarterfinal, which will feature four players from four countries: her partner, Swiss Anouk Verge-Depre and Brazilian Taiana Lima and Dutch Jolien Sinnema who upset Canadians Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson to get there.

On the other side of the bracket are Americans Emily Stockman and Kelley Larsen, who extended their late season excellence with straight-set wins over Mackenzie Ponnet and Brittany Tiegs (21-13, 21-14) and Nicole Branagh and Lauren Fendrick (21-16, 21-12). They’ll match up with Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado, currently the top-ranked team in the world.

The real fun, thus far, though, for either gender, has been in the contender’s bracket, where seven of the eight women’s matches went three sets, and four went more than an hour, including a 75-minute marathon of a match between Jessica Sykora-Delaney Knudsen and Sheila Shaw-Alexa Strange.

“It was crazy, the feeling being tight at the end of the first, still being comfortable with Jess in serve receive,” said Knudsen, who plays at 10:20 a.m. against Tiegs and Ponnet. “We’ve come a long way in our partnership to come back after that.”

The winner will play Wilkerson, the 2018 FIVB Best Blocker, and Bansley, the three-time FIVB Defensive Player of the Year.

“It’s cool to play international teams to experience those different styles of play and that different level of play and not have to go international to do it,” Knudsen said. “It’s cool that p1440 is creating an opportunity for those high level international teams to come here.”