p1440 Top Guns, Young Guns caps 2018

p1440 Top Guns, Young Guns caps 2018, ushers in 2019 season in fun fashion

Kerri Walsh Jennings-p1440

Alvaro Filho rolled over to his side, wincing as a physiotherapist dug…and dug…and dug a little more, working out knots and tension and grit and everything else that inevitably accrues over the course of a season that began, for him, in February, and ended on Sunday, December 2.

Despite the wincing, he still laughed when asked if he would be playing The Hague in exactly a month.

“Oh, yes. Happy New Year,” he said. One season ends, another begins, with just four weeks of separation between.

Filho’s 2018 season ended in both a familiar and unfamiliar fashion. Familiar in the sense that he was in the finals, beating an electrifying Mexican team in veteran defender Lombardo Ontiveros and 22-year-old blocker Juan Rubio, 18-21, 21-15, 15-11.

Such a finish is a regular occurrence for Filho, who won the 2017 Fort Lauderdale Major alongside Saymon Barbosa without so much as losing a set. Yet it was also unfamiliar in the sense that Filho was not playing alongside a fellow Brazilian, but with Germany’s Alex Walkenhorst, an international mishmash not often seen in the current beach volleyball climate.

The unusual format is, at this point in the season, a welcome reprieve for most players, who have played the same style of tournament with the same partner for the previous 11 months consecutively. Both the Young Guns and Top Guns formats this weekend at p1440 offered something unique, sometimes even never-before-seen and perhaps never to be seen again

Young Guns offered one last opportunity for players to compete at the game’s highest level, drawing in talent from Brazil, Russia, Germany, Mexico, Slovenia, South Africa, Canada, Czech Republic, Serbia, Argentina, Colombia and, of course, the United States.

It was Serbians Milena Matic and Kathryn Hogan who took the most advantage of the end-of-season tournament. Through Saturday, their combined career earnings was a hair over $10,000. After beating Americans Katie Spieler and Allie Wheeler – “Spiels and Wheels”, “Spielin’ and Dealin’”, your choice – 21-16, 21-19, that total climbed to more than $24,000.

“The biggest paydays of their careers,” Tim Hovland said on the livestream.

Sometimes Christmas comes early, 23 days in this case.

Despite the blustery conditions, it was a gift for viewers as well, particularly those who watched the Top Guns, a round-robin style format featuring 16 of the best around the world from either gender. Even if a fan only watched two matches, they’d have seen partnerships and matchups they might not otherwise see – America’s Casey Patterson and Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs vs. Brazil’s Ricardo Santos and U.S.A.’s Taylor Crabb, for example, in the Top Guns finals – or partnerships they might see sometime in the future – say, Emily Stockman with Kelly Claes.

Indeed, the weekend offered everything there was to offer. NFL-style drafts? Had that, as Ricardo drafted Crabb for his partner in the Top Guns finals, despite Crabb, at that moment, being in line for a breakfast burrito in the South Bay.

“Be there in 45 minutes,” he said. And he was, jousting the final point for the win, 28-25 over Patterson and Samoilovs, making good on his proclamation to Randy Stoklos that “we’re not going to warm up, we’re just going to win, baby.”

Funny thing, that’s exactly what Kerri Walsh Jennings and 25-year-old Rebecca Cavalcanti did in the women’s Top Guns finals against Kelly Claes and Becchara Palmer, winning 28-15.

“One of them is going to have to change nationalities,” Mike Dodd said, “because this team could win gold in Tokyo.”

“Hands down,” Tim Hovland agreed. “Hands down.”

The possibility of an Olympic gold remains two years away. But the title for beach volleyballs Top Guns?

That, for Cavalcanti and Santos, is now.