Only one women's team will be crowned Queens of the event and, maybe in their minds, Queens of 2020.
This week' event Utrecht, Netherlands is being played, as everything in the 2020 year has been, in unique fashion: Queen of the Court style, featuring multiple teams on court, the first two rounds played against the clock and only the King/Queen's side winning points. (Click here for more details.)
Here is a preview of some of the top women’s teams to watch this week in Utrecht. And remember you can watch all the action live on YouTube.
Margareta Kozuch, Laura Ludwig (GER)
Laura Ludwig is an all-world human being. A three-time Olympian and one-time gold medallist, she’s also been named the FIVB Sportsperson three years in a row, becoming one of the most unusual types of athletes: a consummate winner and humble to the point that she’s loved by her peers. Add onto that the fact that she’s also the most entertaining – as voted by her peers in 2019 – and, well, you have yourself the perfect athlete. It’s funny, sometimes, to think that often the best athletes are the most boring, and the most entertaining athletes are not the most successful, and rarely is humility thrown into the mix – yet Ludwig combines all of the best traits, plus being a new mom to top it off.
In her first year post-pregnancy, her and new partner Margareta Kozuch were good, not great, for the majority of the season. They began half the tournaments in the qualifier, and only once did they finish better than ninth – until the final tournament of the year, when it mattered most.
On the game’s biggest stage, the Rome FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals, the 20th-seeded Ludwig and Kozuch won six straight matches to claim gold. If there’s a team to watch this week in Utrecht, this one must be on that list.
April Ross, Emily Day (USA)
New team alert! Kidding, kidding. Nothing is happening between April Ross and Alix Klineman. They’re still the top-ranked team in the United States, and have no plans on changing anything anytime soon. But Klineman is taking the time to rest, and Ross, one of the most competitive individuals you’ll ever meet should you get the opportunity to do so, saw an opportunity for some high-level ball. Emily Day, whose usual partner, Betsi Flint, is pregnant (congrats is in order!), was free, and the choice was easy.
It'll be fun to see how the two adjust to a new impromptu one-off partnership. They’ve been putting in plenty of work with Day’s coach, John Mayer, and Ross is currently riding a three-tournament win streak, having claimed all three AVPs this season.
They were a last-minute add, replacing Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti, who are always a joy to watch. But there’s an extra level of intrigue when there’s a new team in the mix.
Megan McNamara, Nicole McNamara (CAN)
The future of Canadian beach volleyball is bright, and much of that is due to two individuals whom you’d never be able to tell apart on first, second, third, or 100th meeting. The McNamara twins play some of the most fun style of volleyball in the world, much of it out of necessity, seeing as they’re both 1.75m and split-blocking. Under UCLA coach Stein Metzger, they built the Bruins into a perennial power, with a ball-control-oriented style of play that focused on tempo and movement, forever keeping the defense on unsure footing. They serve well, and with Nicole being lefty and Megan righty, the option is always available, adding another layer to an already-complex offense.
Add all of that, plus the fact that they’re young, spirited, and ultra-competitive in a way that only siblings can be, and you have a team that is an absolute blast to follow.
Alex Jupiter, Aline Chamereau (FRA)
Jupiter and Chamereau have one of the higher untapped ceilings out there. They showed it in Qinzhou, China, last October, when they beat eventual gold medallists Karla Borger and Julia Sude en route to a fifth. Only one other team even took a set off the Germans that weekend. It’s just one tournament, yes, but it’s enough to show that the French are capable of beating just about anybody. In this format, which favours offense, and a big arm like Jupiter’s, they could very well beat everyone.
Kelley Kolinske, Emily Stockman (USA)
The First Queens are back! Kolinske – formerly Kelley Larsen – and Stockman won the inaugural Queen of the Court event in Waikiki in 2018. When they saw an opportunity to compete in the format again, any question over whether or not they would play was simply rhetorical.
“There wasn’t any hesitation for us,” Stockman said. “We really enjoyed playing in it in 2018. Kell asked me a few weeks ago if I wanted to go and I said ‘Absolutely.’”
When they won in Hawai’i, they nearly doubled up on the prize money, coming close to claiming the longest run on the offensive end, siding out 13, maybe 14 balls in a row – Stockman couldn’t recall exactly how many – before someone finally knocked them off. That comes thanks to a fast-moving, spread offense implemented by coach Evie Matthews and executed to near perfection.
King of the Court 2020
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
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