It seems like I’ve blinked and the season is halfway over, it’s going by so quickly. By the end of the weekend, the Regular Season will be over, Playoffs looming a week from now (semi finals start Jan 27th at 5:30pm). If you think about it, however, if this was like all the other tournaments, it would be over already. The excitement would have come and gone. If this season feels like a blink, then a single weekend event feels like an eyelash flutter. So I will savor in the fact that, despite the speed, there is still much fun to be had over the next 2 weeks.
The theme of the season has been Learning. The learning starts in the front office, with all the different pieces and new skills that need to come together to make a league run (with a particular emphasis on learning how to bounce back from technological hiccups). It continues to Owners learning new ways to draft and manage a team. To Referees, Volunteers, and Fans trying to keep up with the new format (especially the unique NBVL Overtime format). Everyone attached to the Inaugural Season is learning something new about how beach volleyball can be played and how people can compete together.
The largest chunk of learning comes to the players. The athletes are carrying the load, putting theory into practice. Without the players willingness to try something new, everything stops before it begins. They are pioneering a dual gender pro league, with elements of the game that have never been played before. It’s uncharted terrain, and they are boldly going where no one has gone before them. If the Starship Enterprise were looking for recruits, NBVL athletes would make for an excellent pool of candidates.
The key lies in the fact that they are all in it together. There are no weak links in the chain. At the team level, Men and Women won’t ever play on the same court, but they understand that their team is stronger united. Instead of simply playing against an opponent, they can now also play FOR their counterpart as added incentive. From a league standpoint, every player is pushing each other to grow stronger. Players in Vancouver are winter training like never before, and it’s increasing the quality of the games, elevating everyone to be able to play their best beach volleyball when called upon to do so.
With only 2 matches left per team in the Regular Season, every team is still in the playoff hunt, and every team is still in jeopardy of being knocked out of the top 4. This weekend will confirm the playoff spots for the Inaugural Season, then Next Sunday the first NBVL Champions will be crowned. Here’s a quick rundown of how each team looks coming down the stretch.
Possibly the most balanced team in the league, Moveo currently sits in top spot. A single point will clinch them a playoff berth. The key to their lead is 2 strong Overtime victories over Natura Solutions and Dunbar Cycles. Neither the men’s pair of Ryan Gandy and Alexander Harvalias nor the women’s pairing, Jana Weir and Aly McKay have won every match, but Moveo remains the only unbeaten team because they have yet to be stopped in OT. Active ReLeaf is next in their path.
Natura is tied for 2nd overall after dropping the first matchup vs Moveo on Jan 6th. Jared Krause and Murf Laidlaw are the only men’s team that is unbeaten in regulation, which has earned them at least 1 point in every matchup, but it was 2 net trickling kills from Jo Braun and Jaz Kim that brought Natura back into their thrilling 17-15 OT victory over Volleyball Stuff last Sunday. Another test awaits them tonight against Volleyball BC.
They looked to be a frontrunner to win it all this season as Kumiko Chow and Katie Wuttunee have seemed unstoppable in Regulation play. But Natura came up with the solution in Overtime on Sunday. John Galloway returns to play with Joel Caschetto, so V Stuff will be looking to bounce right back in a clash against Dunbar Cycles tonight, and then a matchup against Moveo tomorrow that could have playoff seeding implications.
Dunbar got off to a dominant start in their Jan 6th matchup, the only team to win without dropping a set. Last weekend saw them struggle, however, dropping both matches, but managing to at least earn one overtime point thanks to a 3 set comeback from Kelsi Boroevich and Colleen Ogilvie over the Moveo women. Player Owner Rob Venables has had to pull himself from the lineup due to an “Upper body injury”, Ben Feist will go forward in his stead. He’ll pair up with Stephen Nash to take on the team that he played for last weekend, Volleyball Stuff.
Boasting the winner of the most recent 2018 Vancouver Open, Denise Wooding, and the all time KBVL wins leader, Jonny Wiskar, Volleyball BC looked to be a frontrunner post draft. After the first 2 matchups, both the men, Jonny and Daniel Rod, and women, Denise and Meghan Brown, had yet to win a single match. Sunday saw them start to right the ship, with an OT win over Active ReLeaf, but they will need a strong last weekend if they hope to advance to Jan 27th. Maybe Krzyzstof Orman’s arrival will make the difference.
The hardest road to the Playoffs resides here. Krystian Wetulani, Chloe Stone, Dave Beleznay, and Tamiko Young will need to be on their game all weekend long in order to advance. 2 Overtime losses the last two matchups, have kept them in the hunt, but wins will be needed tonight and tomorrow if they hope to make up the difference and pull themselves up from the 6th position. Krystian, another NBVL Player Owner, is away this weekend, so Dave will play with Daniel Rod who has been a member of Volleyball BC up until now. They and Stone and Young will need to dig deep (and transition kill) to stay alive beyond this Sunday.