Lots of developments from p1440 San Jose as we get ready for the Olympic qualifier in Las Vegas. One of the more intriguing was the performance of Jeremy Casebeer and Reid Priddy, perhaps the most entertaining team on the domestic tour.
Priddy is one of the supremely decorated indoor players in USA history. A gold medal in the Olympic Summer Games in Beijing in 2008 and bronze eight years later in Rio as an undersized outside hitter. He also participated in the 2004 Games. He is a fierce competitor which I think comes from being underestimated at every level. It has served him well as he transitions from indoor to beach. There are a lot of naysayers out there but Reid believes he will qualify for the U.S. in Tokyo.
Leading into San Jose, Priddy and Casebeer had been the model of consistency…of just falling short of the finals…finishing third in four AVP tournaments in 2018 after Priddy twice finished third with “The Wall” Ricardo Santos in 2017. This year’s Manhattan Beach Open was indicative of the toughness of this team. They played two of the summer’s longest matches back to back with the freeze where they defeated Tim Bomgren (best hands on the beach IMO) and Chaim Schalk in 1:22 and then a triumph over Casey Patterson and Stafford Slick (1:21). Then they fell to Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb in the semifinals.
Their best chance to win a tournament appeared to be in the Chicago AVP a couple of weeks later when in an 1:29 match they beat Crabb/Gibb to get to the crossover but then lost to Bomgren and Schalk in the semis. So why can’t they punch it past the goal line? A clue came in San Jose. In the semis, they had the world’s number one ranked team, Anders Mol and Christian Sorum on the ropes. But then Casebeer had a serving meltdown and they lost 15-13 in the third. In the round before, they had one of their greatest wins as a team taking down Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera in straight sets.
The key for this team going forward is going to be with Casebeer. He might not like what I am going to write but he has difficulty putting it all together at times, especially when the stakes are the highest. Physically he is imposing and he works soooo hard. In those long AVP matches watching him jump serve, run to the net to block, and then get served a majority of balls may make him the hardest working man in show biz. He also plays EVERYWHERE. How fun was it seeing him and Adam Roberts in Seaside, Oregon this year.
Priddy, on the other hand, keeps getting better and better. He was killing Mol and Sorum with the jumbo shrimp and his trademark one arm stabs are a thing of beauty. If Jeremy can put a whole tournament together this team will be potentially a USA entrant in Tokyo but it is getting crowded at the top. Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb are fresh off a three star win in China, there is Jake Gibb/Taylor Crabb and Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena. It will be interesting to track the arc of all of this, especially in Vegas where the qualifier is the Bataan Death March with Bourne/Trevor Crabb, Miles Evans/Billy Kolinske and Casebeer/Priddy among others all hoping to emerge to play another day.
Speaking of Evans/Kolinske they keep getting better and better. They beat Priddy and Casebeer and made the semifinals in San Jose before running into the Latvian buzzsaw, the tournament winners Martins Plavins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs. Evans/Kolinske have five rings in their thoughts and are playing every Norceca and FIVB tour event that they feasibly can enter. Look out.
Finally, can you believe Casey Jennings? Dude got himself into shape after a long layoff and took fifth with Pedro Solberg in San Jose.
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