Top Guns provided a simultaneous look at beach volleyball’s future and past
It was A Christmas Carol, beach volleyball edition. For there, on the same side of the net, in back to back matches, were figures of beach volleyball’s future and past, mixed with a heavy dose of the present.
Taylor Crabb had always wondered what it would be like to be on the same side of the net as Ricardo Santos, the Brazilian blocker known, simply and fittingly, as The Wall. The youngest Crabb was six years old when Santos claimed his first victory on the FIVB, one of 56 internationally.
He was 26 when Santos claimed his most recent, at p1440 Huntington Beach’s Top Guns, their first time playing on the side of the net. While it is easy to point to Crabb as the ghost of beach volleyball’s future, it isn’t quite as fitting to label Santos as the ghost of beach volleyball’s past.
At 43 years young this season, Santos made an FIVB final alongside Brazilian dynamo Alvaro Filho, who claimed the Young Guns crown on the same weekend.
But there was something undeniably thrilling in watching the oldest, most decorated player in the field playing alongside the 26-year-old MVP of the AVP, one of the fastest-rising defenders in the game.
Together, Santos and Crabb took down veterans and Olympians Aleksandrs Samoilovs of Latvia and Casey Patterson of the United States. Together, they provided the prelude for a similar matchup to come, one featuring another of the game’s G.O.A.T.s with a youngster of brilliant talent.
Kerri Walsh Jennings didn’t play the role of Santos in the Top Guns in that she did not draft Brazilian Rebecca Cavalcanti, but the other way around. While Santos plucked Crabb out of a breakfast burrito line, Cavalcanti made the somewhat obvious decision to play with the greatest player to ever step foot on a beach volleyball court, drafting the 40-year-old Walsh Jennings as her partner to play against Kelly Claes and Australian Becchara Palmer.
What ensued was a similar rendition of what preceded it: The veteran and the up-and-comer jumping out to an early lead and holding it, giving fans a glimpse of what has made Walsh Jennings so great and a look at what’s to come with Cavalcanti, a hard-swinging defender with tremendous ball control in even the windiest of conditions.
It wasn’t yet Christmas in Huntington Beach, but the holiday season had no doubt begun. There were no Ebenezer Scrooge’s off of Brookhurst Street, just a glimpse at beach volleyball’s past – and still present – and a bright look at its future.
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