SANDCAST No. 7: Geena Urango, the intern who dug her way to the top

December 13, 2017

Geena Urango didn’t expect to be playing on the AVP Tour. After playing volleyball for five years at USC – four indoors, one on the beach – Urango, who studied digital marketing, was just stoked to have a job: Interning with the AVP Tour.

“My first day on the job I get called into Donald [Sun’s] office just to do a little meet and greet,” Urango recalled on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “He’s like ‘Yeah, so you’re going to play too, right?’ And I was like ‘What?’ I didn’t even know that was an option.

“Just that one sentence sparked it.”

That question was both a blessing and a burden for Sun, who was able to retain Urango for a year and a half before Urango ultimately realized that she still had a passion for the game, to the point that she quit her job with the AVP to focus full-time on her career as a player.

Her decision has proved to be prescient. Since concentrating on beach – she still freelances as a marketer – Urango has become one of the top defenders on the AVP Tour, making four finals over the course of the 2015, ’16, and ’17 seasons with partner Angela Bensend. It was a partnership that began on a last-minute scramble prior to the 2015 Manhattan Beach Open and has since become one of the most recognizable on Tour, both for their play, their nickname – “TexMex” – and garish bikinis, kudos of Goldsheep.  

“Benny and I, what was great about playing together, we were always on the same page, what our goals were for the season,” Urango said. “Each season we progressively got better and better, so it was ‘Why break what’s not broken?’ We had a great balance. She was fiery and brought a lot of energy and I was more calm and collected.”

Bensend, however, has since moved to Philadelphia, and with a balky back her future on the beach is uncertain, leaving Urango one of the more talented free agents on Tour.

For now, Urango is content traveling the world, snowboarding, spoiling her dogs.

Find our full show notes at VolleyballMag.com. 

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SANDCAST No. 6: A glimpse into greatness with April Ross, Part 2

December 6, 2017

The cat’s out of the bag: April Ross is playing with Alix Klineman, a 6-foot-5 blocker out of Stanford.

On paper, the two will be a formidable pair, Ross one of the best defenders in the world, Klineman a standout indoor blocker who has an AVP final and a third under her belt. One problem: Klineman has just one year of full-time beach experience. The road to Tokyo 2020 will not be easy, though as Ross says on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “it’s not supposed to be easy.”

“What is the meaning if what you’re doing if you’re not being challenged?” she says. “If you don’t have these things that will help you grow and things to help you overcome, what’s the point?”

On Part Two, Ross discusses the path ahead, the inevitable challenges ahead, her mindset moving forward, as well as pairing up with former partner Jen Kessy, who will be coaching Ross-Klineman through Tokyo, site of the 2020 Olympic Games. Ross and Kessy, of course, are one of the best teams in American beach volleyball history, medaling in 17 out of 20 FIVB tournaments in a stretch from 2008-2010, finishing with a silver medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where they lost to Kerri Walsh and Misty May.

Few, if any, in the game know Ross’ style better than Kessy.

“One of the things I learned the importance of,” she said, “is building a like-minded team around yourself: having the same mentality, the same goals, the same work ethic are all really important. Alix and I don’t know each other very well but it’s funny how connected we feel.”

The first glimpse the beach volleyball world will have of Ross-Klineman will be in The Hague on January 3, where Ross, who has won 21 international tournaments, will likely be in a country quota.

“We’re training every day,” Ross said. “Doing everything we can to get better every day.”

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SANDCAST No. 5: A glimpse into greatness with April Ross, Part 1

November 29, 2017

There has only ever seemed to be one gear for April Ross: Go.

Such is how the Newport Beach native has garnered a laundry list of accomplishments that include, among others: A Gatorade National Player of the Year award at Newport Harbor High School; two national championships at USC (where she never even planned on playing, but more on that in Part 2); a two-year stretch with partner Jen Kessey between 2008-2010 in which she medaled in 17 of 20 FIVB events; an undefeated AVP season in 2014 with Kerri Walsh-Jennings; two Olympics medals, one silver, one bronze.

And every time Ross thinks it’s time to unwind, to relax – well, there’s always another mountain to climb.

“It’s so hard. It’s so hard. What I find happens is I convince myself to find that balance a little bit and not stress about it and not work so hard,” she said. “And then I’ll go to a competition, underperform, and I’m like ‘F this! I’m going to home, step it up. I’m not training hard enough, not focused hard enough. If you just want to win that bad – it’s so hard to take a step back and find that balance.”

This season was, as Ross describes it on SANDCAST, full of “hiccups.” A last-minute breakup with Walsh-Jennings, with whom Ross won a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympic Games, along with a toe injury that had more of an effect that she realized until she watched video of her approach, made for a mercurial year, though certainly not a bad one – not by most standards, anyway.

Ross still won a pair of AVP tournaments, in Austin split-blocking with Whitney Pavlik, and in New York defending for Lauren Fendrick. She still made the World Championship finals in Vienna, pushing the 2016 Olympic gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst to three sets.

But one of those hiccups – having a constantly-changing partner situation – is resolved for 2018. In Alix Klineman, the 2017 AVP Rookie of the Year, Ross has partner stability once more.

“It was really hard to figure out what to do,” Ross said. “There weren’t many chances to compete and to try people out. It came down to really intangible things. I decided to go with Alix Klineman to take a shot at Tokyo.”

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SANDCAST No. 4: Welcome to the United States, Chaim Schalk

November 24, 2017

Chaim Schalk had been to the United States before. The Alberta native has actually been an American citizen his entire life -- his mother is an Iowan -- but as a kid raised in Red Deer, Schalk has been competing in the Canadian pipeline his entire life. 

Until now. 

After the 2017 season, Schalk, who finished fifth at the 2017 Beach Volleyball World Championships with longtime partner Ben Saxton, the 6-foot-5 defender made the decision to transfer to compete for the United States, homeland of his wife, Lane Carico, another top-flight U.S. defender whom he married on New Years Eve of 2015.

“It was probably halfway through the season when I considered what my options were going to be,” Schalk said. “Me and Ben, we weren’t, I don’t think, were on the same page after a certain period of time. We had a really good run over five years but I was hoping we were going to become more consistent and we never actually won a tournament, and every team around our level has won a tournament. Every team. And that was one thing I wanted to do: I wanted to win.

“We’d get into these tournaments where we were so close and every time, something happened. Not to say that’s the reason why I wanted to move on, because if it’s not Ben, who am I going to win with?”

And that remains the No. 1 question for Schalk moving forward: Who will the erstwhile Canadian partner with?

Because of an FIVB transfer rule, Schalk will have to sit out of FIVB tournaments until October of 2019. He’ll be an exclusively AVP talent, though it's possible he could compete in the World Series of Beach Volleyball, should it not fall under the FIVB umbrella, as it did not this past season.

He hasn’t decided on anything; he hasn’t ruled anything out.

It’s just as possible he plays with Brazilian blocker Ricardo Santos, with whom he played in AVP New York and stunned Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in the first round, as with a young and developing blocker.

For now, Schalk is rehabbing his pinky finger post-surgery, though the next time he steps on the sand, it’ll be as a member of USA Volleyball.

WATCH: SANDCAST host Tri Bourne plays against SANDCAST guest Chaim Schalk in the Toronto semifinals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8BHlrar2wc&t=934s

Where to find Chaim Schalk:

Twitter: @chaimschalk 

Instagram: @Chaimer

Website: ChaimSchalk.com

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SANDCAST No. 3: It’s finally (finally) video game season for Kelly Claes

November 15, 2017

In a frenetic span of 120 days, Kelly Claes was able to accomplish what the vast majority of the beach volleyball world would be satisfied with in a career. 

She won a national championship with USC, which was preceded by the USAV Collegiate Beach Championships. She stunned 2016 Olympic gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst to claim a bronze medal in the World Series of Beach Volleyball. She won an AVP during the season finale in Chicago, which came with the added bonus of boosted prize money, money she was alas able to accept. She even won a NORCECA qualifier – playing defense with Lauren Fendrick.

And Claes isn’t done yet. Not even close.

 “I want to be the best blocker in the world,” she says repeatedly throughout the podcast.

She’s not far off, despite playing professionally for less than one full season (she had to skip the AVP’s opener in Huntington Beach). While her and partner Sara Hughes, the FIVB Rookie of the Year, finished the collegiate season No. 1 in the country and national champs for the fourth straight season, they also finished No. 16 internationally and sixth on the AVP.

 On the podcast, Claes discusses her remarkable partnership with Hughes, which includes a record 103-match winning streak, and what she learned by playing with Fendrick and AVP MVP April Ross in an FIVB in China.

“You can only learn so much from one person,” she says. “I feel like reaching into another hat is always helpful. I feel like I learned from both of them and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It was a really cool experience.”

With a little less than three months to go before the opening event of the 2018 season, in The Hague, Claes and Hughes are back on the sand. Claes discusses what her training looks like, what events she’s looking forward to in the 2018 season, her aspirations both immediate and long term, and how she plans on developing into the best blocker in the world.

Where you can find Claes:

Twitter: @kellyclaes3

Instagram: Kellyclaes3

Facebook: Kelly Claes

Of course, this podcast would not be possible without our generous sponsors from Marriott Vacation Club Rentals, which offer the best vacation accommodations in the world’s best vacation destinations. Wherever you travel… Florida to Hawaii, Europe to California, choose to rest in our luxurious guest rooms, suites or villas for your next getaway. Villas offer all of the comforts of home including a full kitchen, living and dining area and separate bedrooms. Stay with the Marriott name you know and trust.   

Book Big Spaces in Great Places today.  Visit www.MVCRentals.com!

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SANDCAST No. 2: Ryan Doherty, the Most Interesting Man in Beach Volleyball

November 7, 2017

Dos Equis had it all wrong when the beer company casted actor Jonathan Goldsmith as its "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign. 

It missed out on Ryan Doherty. 

Even amongst a group of peers with circuitous routes into beach volleyball, Doherty’s path has been exceptionally itinerant. A star pitcher out of the baseball-mad town of Toms River, New Jersey, Doherty threw for Notre Dame in college. He left early, going undrafted but getting scooped up by the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he spent two years in the minor leagues, years filled with long bus rides, pitching well, pitching not so well – until he got the call from the manager’s office. Doherty was cut.

It was, as rock bottom moments can often be, a watershed moment for Doherty, as serendipitous as it was crushing.

After couch surfing for a bit in South Carolina, where he was routinely beaten down in beach volleyball by high schoolers, Doherty had made up his mind: He was moving to California, and he was going to play professional beach volleyball.

Since, the 7-foot-1 – well, 7-foot-and-a-half – blocker has partnered with Olympians Casey Patterson, Nick Lucena, Todd Rogers and John Hyden. He has beaten Phil Dalhausser. He has represented the United States internationally and domestically, becoming a mainstay on both the AVP and FIVB Tours.

Doherty discusses all of that and a great deal more on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.

Mentioned in the show:

Doherty wrote a book, Avatar’s Guide to Beach Volleyball. You can get that on Amazon here:

Where you can find Doherty:

Twitter: @RyanDVolley

Facebook: Ryan Doherty

As always, this show would not be possible without the sponsorship of Marriott Vacation Club Rentals, who offers the best vacation accommodations in the world’s best vacation destinations. 

Wherever you travel… Florida to Hawaii, Europe to California, choose to rest in our luxurious guest rooms, suites or villas for your next getaway.  

Villas offer all of the comforts of home including a full kitchen, living and dining area and separate bedrooms.  

Stay with the Marriott name you know and trust.  

Book Big Spaces in Great Places today.  Visit www.MVCRentals.com!

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The Sandcast: The new Tri Bourne — Buddha Tri Bourne

October 30, 2017

Welcome to the first episode of The Sandcast: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, presented by Marriott Vacation Club Rentals and brought to you by VolleyballMag.com. 

The podcast will delve into all areas of beach volleyball, from the top players and talents across the globe to coaches, influencers and any individual who could bring valuable insight regarding the game of beach volleyball. 

The first episode is the podcast's host himself, Tri Bourne. 

After qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio -- though missing the cut due to the country quota -- and finishing the year ranked No. 5 in the world alongside John Hyden. 

Recently, however, Bourne has been sidelined, out with an enigmatic autoimmune disease that kept him out for the 2017 season. It made for a bit of an odd year for Bourne: watching, not playing; commentating on the AVP livestream, not traveling the world; going to the doctor's office, skipping the beach. 

On the podcast, Bourne discusses how he has dealt with the adversity of an illness, being limited in terms of playing, and how he actually wouldn't trade his year. 

"It's funny," Bourne says. "At this particular moment, it kind of has been a great year." 

Indeed. Bourne hit the books, learning about mindset, sports psychology, meditation. He developed new talents, beginning with commentating on the AVP livestream, which was a smash hit throughout the year. 

"It's been fun," he says. "It's been cool. There's been highs and lows."

This podcast, of course, is sponsored by Marriott Vacation Club Rentals, which offers the best vacation accommodations in  the world’s best vacation destinations. Wherever you travel -- Florida to Hawaii, Europe to California -- choose to rest in our luxurious guest rooms, suites or villas for your next getaway. Villas offer all of the comforts of home including a full kitchen, living and dining area and separate bedrooms.  

Stay with the Marriott name you know and trust.  
 
Book Big Spaces in Great Places today. Visit www.MVCRentals.com!
 
Where you can find Bourne: 
Twitter: @TriBourne
Instagram: @tribourne
Facebook: @tribournehi
 
Let us know what you think -- it's just episode No. 1, so be kind. 
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