Miles Evans has heard you.
He knows he doesn’t get the credit he and Billy Kolinske deserve for what has been, by all accounts, an excellent partnership. They have beaten Sean Rosenthal and Trevor Crabb, Casey Patterson and Stafford Slick. They’ve won a NORCECA and made the finals in another. They have taken a silver and a bronze on the FIVB.
Not that any of that has seemed to matter. Few in the beach volleyball world have given them credit, mostly due to a clashing of ideologies: They didn’t want to acquiesce and sign the AVP’s contract, so they played everything but the AVP, forgoing not only the chance to play on America’s only domestic tour – the NVL, with only one event, cannot count as a Tour in 2017 – but evidently the respect that comes with it.
Perhaps it’s time for that to change.
Evans and Kolinske smoked Reid Priddy, an AVP semifinalist, and Jeremy Casebeer, an AVP finalist, in the first round of the qualifier in The Hague, a four-star event to open the international season.
If you’re looking for caveats, yes, you can find them. Priddy and Casebeer have never played together. It’s the first event of the season. It’s a weird indoor tournament in January in a different country.
Priddy and Casebeer have both been playing long enough at a high enough level that their chemistry, or lackthereof, shouldn’t have made a monumental difference. Ricardo Santos and Chaim Schalk beat Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in AVP New York after one hour of practice and a few qualifier matches.
Their styles of play don’t exactly complement each other as well as, say, Casebeer and John Mayer’s, but no, I don’t think chemistry made enough of a difference to explain 21-15, 21-13 in 34 minutes.
I just think Evans and Kolinske are actually that good, even if few ever give them the credit they’re due.
Even Trevor Crabb, who livestreamed the match and is a notorious heel when it comes to doling out credit to other players, seemed impressed with Evans.
Early in the first set, Kolinske ran an angle block and Casebeer cranked one down the line – only for Evans to pass it directly back over for a kill.
“Did you see that dig?” Crabb asked. “Did you see that dig?”
It would have been easy to miss it, Casebeer hit it so hard. But that is, in truth, the type of play Evans makes with regularity, though it was Kolinske who was responsible for many of the defensive plays, even if they weren’t exactly highlight-reel dig-kills. He soft-blocked around four or five, and with the new FIVB rule allowing four touches off the block, Kolinske sided out almost all of them. He roofed Casebeer and Priddy no less than four times – stats were admittedly difficult to take on a choppy livestream on an Instagram story – and made a few wise peels on shots that resulted in easy points in transition.
If Evans is the supreme athlete of the two, Kolinske’s volleyball IQ and monkish fundamentals are what makes him so maddeningly and boringly effective.
If rust was the reason few credited Evans and Kolinske for winning a NORCECA qualifier in September that ended up not mattering at all – the event in Jamaica was canceled shortly after – that cannot be a cause here. Priddy has been training roughly four times a week and playing in Brazil with Ricardo. Casebeer, too, has been playing in Brazil while training here and there with Mayer.
They’re in as good of volleyball shape as two can expected to be in January.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, then, when Evans and Kolinske pasted the Netherlands’ Ruben Penninga and Tom van Steenis in the final round of the qualifier, 21-17, 21-10, just as it shouldn’t have been much of a shock when they pushed Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty to three in the first match of pool play, ultimately losing 21-17, 19-21, 10-15.
It would be nice to see them on the AVP, yes, but it might actually be more beneficial to them – not financially, but playing-wise – that they do not. American teams don’t see them with regularity. They don’t see Kolinske’s savvy pokes and crafty shots and their shoot-back-sets and everything else that goes into their style of play. American teams have far less information on Kolinske and Evans than they do every other U.S. team for the sole reason that they are not playing the AVP Tour.
Sure, it might not earn them respect, but right now Evans and Kolinske are in the main draw, making money, earning points, turning heads, inching closer to the threshold of automatically in the main draws of four- and five-star events.
Miles Evans and Billy Kolinske have heard you.
It’s time the volleyball world acknowledges them.