Billy Allen's World Champs blog

01.07.2019 - Hamburg, Germany

Part 2: The American recaps his second match in Hamburg, which almost didn't happen

We started the FIVB World Championships with a three set loss to Brazil’s Alison/Alvaro. They’re a top team, and we knew it would be a tough one. We played well to take a set off of them, but they made good adjustments, especially with Alison’s blocking, and took control of the second and third games.

We had a day off before our next match against the top team in our pool, the #5 seeded Russian team of Semenov/Leshukov. The format of the World Championships differs from any other tournament I’ve played in. It feels more like tennis than the grind of a beach volleyball tournament. We’re also getting spoiled with the amount of resources USA Volleyball is putting into this event. When we’re not competing every other day, we fill our time preparing with our coach running practice and giving video scouting reports, a strength and conditioning coach putting us through workouts, physical therapists working on our bodies, and a sports psychologist working on our minds. With all this preparation, our daily schedule has been plenty full–though we do fit in time for a board game at night. (We may have mixed tournament results so far, but I’m 4-0 at Settlers of Catan!)

Our second match against Russia was a crazy one. In fact, we almost didn’t play it. We spent a little too long at the warm-up courts at a nearby university campus before walking over to the venue. When I got to the court, the refs were conferring at the score table. The match before us had ended ten minutes before, and they were seconds away from calling our match a forfeit. I hurried over and grabbed my jersey as they blew the whistle for the match to start.

We had no warm-up time on our court and it showed. At the first technical timeout, the score was 6-15. We couldn’t stop them, and Leshukov was digging everything I hit and then unloading in transition. They crushed us 21-13 the first set.

Despite the rough loss, Stafford and I kept it loose and stayed determined. It was a bad start, and I felt embarrassed not being able to put the ball away, but we let that go and stayed focused on our mission. In the second game, we hung with them and had lots of chances to earn points in transition off of digs, but couldn’t put the ball away and seize those opportunities. It would have been easy to get frustrated, but we kept moving on to the next play and focusing on siding out. I had to vary my offense, chopping the ball around more than just hitting hard like the first set. We sided out well, fending off multiple match points. We eventually took the game on a one-armed dig that shot over and landed on their side. The momentum and energy continued into the third set where we won 15-12. It wasn’t a clean game, but it doesn’t have to be pretty to win. It felt good to battle back from the slow start and to keep fighting against such a strong opponent. This was our team’s biggest win.

Now we’re back to the luxurious schedule with a full day off before our final match of pool play against Qatar. So, we're filling our days practicing, scouting, and taking care of the body and mind.

Plus the occasional board game.