The first major of the season is in the books, and I’ve decided to experiment with something I haven’t seen before in beach volleyball but I do everywhere else in sports: Power rankings!
Like all power rankings, these are entirely subjective, based on finishes, head-to-head results, discussions with players, and watching way, way too much YouTube and making judgements based on that. The plan is to unroll a new ranking every month or so, though if there aren’t any major tournaments in a given month, the power rankings may only come out after the next closest major.
Without further adieu, here is the first edition of the Paper Courts Power Rankings:
1. Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, United States
They just took a major in straight sets, and only one match, a quarterfinal against the Dutch, was really even a match at all. Dalhausser is playing what may be the best volleyball of his life, and Lucena is quickly becoming one of the more under-appreciated talents because of it.
2. Alexander Brouwer, Robert Meeuwsen, Netherlands
Ask the Canadians, Sam Schachter and Sam Pedlow, or Jake Gibb, or Dalhausser, which team has quickly become one of the FIVB’s most formidable, and they will invariably point you to the Dutch monsters. At 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-6, they’re one of the biggest, if not the single biggest, team on Tour, packing heat, bombing jump serves and a nasty jump float, and boasting one of the most efficient side out percentages on Tour.
3. Daniele Lupo, Paolo Nicolai, Italy
The silver medalists from 2016 proved why they finished second on the game’s biggest stage, using their tempo, chippy, maddeningly effective offense to go undefeated until the gold medal match against Dalhausser and Lucena.
4. Evandro Gonclaves, Andre Loyola, Brazil
Yes, the world champs from a year ago had a disappointing showing in Fort Lauderdale, getting dominated at the net by Jake Gibb of the U.S. and Alex Ranghieri of Italy – but they’re still the world champs. One tough tournament in February won’t knock them down too far.
5. Viacheslav Krasilnikov, Nikita Liamin, Russia
Like the Brazilians above them, this might seem high for a team that was bounced in the first round of playoffs, but such is the nature of beach volleyball, and especially a beach volleyball major. Anything can happen in a single match, but Krasilnikov has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world, and they did finish No. 1 on the FIVB rankings from a year ago.
6. Alison Cerutti, Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Brazil
I feel like I need to wash my hands after placing the gold medalists from 2016 in the six spot, but the fact of the matter is it’s been a bit of a hangover from the Rio Olympics for Alison and Bruno. After making six finals in 2016, they made just one in 2017 and failed to make the quarterfinals in nearly half of their events. Now, it’s still Alison and Bruno, but they’re not the smoking hot Alison and Bruno of 2016.
7. Piotr Kantor, Bartosz Losiak, Poland
My favorite YouTube rabbit hole to burrow down, the Polish are forever entertaining, and also perpetually volatile. They’re as likely to lose a set 21-12 as they are to win one by the same margin (they did both in Fort Lauderdale). You never really know. But with a second in The Hague and a fifth in Florida, the jump-setting, fast-moving Polish are always a contender.
8. Aleksandrs Samoilovs, Janis Smedins, Latvia
Always one of the most consistent teams on tour, the Latvians took home their best finish in Fort Lauderdale, claiming a bronze medal in beating Pedro Solberg and George Wanderley. Their ceiling, however, seems to be lowering after a career year in 2016, in which they won three events en route to an Olympic berth. Problem is: They haven’t won on the FIVB since.
9. Adrian Gavira, Pablo Herrera, Spain
These two have six – six! – Olympics between them, and they’re just 30 and 35 years old, respectively. Models of consistency, it took three marathon sets, all to deuces, against the Italians Nicolai and Lupo to knock them out for fifth place in Fort Lauderdale.
10. Pedro Solberg, George Wanderley, Brazil
Here’s kind of the crazy part: These two came out of the qualifier. Brazil, and the world as a whole, though Brazil in particular, is that deep. Wanderley, at 21 years old, may be young, but Solberg, the Tour champion in 2008, when he was 23, is a seasoned veteran, and he proved he and young Wanderley have an enormously high ceiling in pushing from the qualifier, past a three-set comeback win over Theo Brunner and John Hyden in the quarterfinals and onto the semifinals.
Team to watch: Edgars Tocs, Martins Plavins, Latvia
- Plavins may be most famous for stunning Dalhausser and Todd Rogers in the first round of pool play in the 2008 Olympics, which was eventually won by Dalhausser and Rogers. But in partnering with Tocs, the two-time Olympian – he also made the 2012 Olympics with Smedins – has resuscitated a struggling career, already eclipsing his prize money from all of last season. The two won the season-opener at The Hague, made the finals in Kish Island, and claimed ninth in Fort Lauderdale.
Next five out:
Jake Gibb, Taylor Crabb, United States
Guto Carvalhaes, Vitor Felipe, Brazil
Clemens Doppler, Alexander Horst, Austria
Marco Caminati, Alex Ranghieri, Italy