Written by Solomon Berry
Fittingly, the biggest Advanced Division of the year is at Nationals, with a whopping 70 teams. There will be some amazing teams this year, with some teams that have already been very close to breaking through to Premier, but only two-half Premier teams. There should be some very tight matchups throughout the day, and the quarterfinals matchups and on will be very tough to pick between.
Always on Two (Isaiah Balter and Ben Ivins)
Ben got third place in the Salt Lake Tour Stop and will look to do one better here. Isaiah has a lot of experience and both play frequently with Spikers Synonymous. Ben mixes in a great cut, with a jam and a nasty drop that will ace anybody, including Spikers. Isaiah has an incredibly hard to return jam, that he alternates with a solid left hand. Both play very clean offense, with Ben’s finishes especially coming very low off of the net. With their experience against top level teams, strong serves, and good chemistry, they should fly through the Advanced Division.
Gock City (Andrew Shock & Alanson Shock)
One of the longest tenured teams coming to Nationals from any of the divisions, Gock City was actually on the power rankings back in August of 2016. They have played together several times this year, including in Grand Rapids where they went 6-1 in pools and made it to Quarters in bracket play. When they have played together over the last few years they have consistently been on the brink of qualifying for Premier, with solid play, few mistakes, and some strong serves that they flashed in Michigan. Look for them to break through that barrier with the type of chemistry that only comes from playing together for years and as brothers.
Dylan Fogarty (Vinny Bonta & Jesse Hokanson)
One of the few half-premier teams in the Advanced division at Nationals, they should do very well here. Vinny recently played in the Premier division in Columbus with Carter Clem, losing to Graham/Throw in the round of 16. He has a great backhand serve, as well as a strong cut that should generate a lot of aces. Past that, him and Jesse should play very well together, and make the quarterfinals at the very least.
Aiming for Silva (JR Moise & Freddie Silva)
Freddie was Premier qualified up until a month ago, and should do very well here in Advanced. The experience from Premier should ensure that he will have no trouble with Advanced level serves, and if you don’t get aced, you normally don’t lose. Freddie also has a decent cut serve, that should get breaks against Advanced teams. JR is left handed with some good serves and just a consistent player all around. He has gotten really good, really fast and won a King of the Beach tournament last year over players such as Brendan Ferreira. If they play well together, and limit silly mistakes around the net, they should go far.
Unknown (Michael Zagone & Jack Matthews)
Both of these players bring an extremely long track record to the table, and performed well together just two weeks ago in Nashville, making it to the quarterfinals before losing to a tough team in Superior. Zagone took fourth place in Santa Monica back in 2016 and used to play with Patrick Drucker as Origin Ignition. Jack is a solid overall player with good fundamentals who has been playing for almost five years. Both have earned Premier at one time or another, and their return to the scene is a blast to past sure to excite. While they did not perform quite up to expectations in Chicago, look for them to bounce back with a vengeance.
Macrodosing (Tom Witt & Avery Wolfe)
Tom and Avery have already made the quarterfinals in multiple Tour Stops this year, including West Regionals. Tom is an O.G. baller looking to regain his Premier status, and while he does not have overpowering serves, he does all the fundamentals well which should serve him very well in Advanced. Avery is another long time player and Chico State Alumni, who is solid all around and pairs couple serves that are tough enough to work together and get some breaks. Him and Tom have a lot of experience together, and the chemistry should keep them consistent throughout the day.
Our Flag is Better (Donald Fung & Kory Steinberg)
Donald is the bigger name in this pairing and his cut/jam combo can be very tough to stop when it gets going. Pairing that combo with a solid fwango keeps returners off balance, and should present a lot of trouble for opposing team in the advanced division. Kory has a hard jam serve, but not much of a cut, so watch for Donald to produce most of their breaks. On offense, so long as they can get clean sets they should do well.
Calirado (David Roedema & Caleb Cummings)
David and Caleb are a really interesting matchup of two very good servers. Caleb does not cut a ton, but jam serves are definitively back, and he whacks the crap out of the ball. On defense he plays good body D, but does not venture off net much, so aware teams should be able to hit around him. However, when you pair Caleb’s body D with David flying around the net, things get much tougher, and when you add David’s all around clean play this is a team to fear. The biggest key for them will be consistent serve return, if they have it they could get to the finals, if not they might struggle to get past the quarterfinals.
Incompetence (Luke Marshall & Ethan McWhirter)
Luke is a top Texas A&M player who should do really well here. He pairs some good serves with a normally clean selection of put-aways that should play well in Advanced. He is joined by his former high school partner Ethan who is playing his second SRA Tour Stop. Ethan is a solid fundamental player, but the question for this team will be to see if they have the firepower on offense to keep up with this loaded field.
No Regretsky (Nick Rankin & Grady Fleming)
Nick plays with Origin in Chicago, and is known for his mastery of the near net pocket and the hard and low serves that come from it. Nick will also play some solid body defense, so it will be interesting to see if Grady can take advantage of any touches that generates. Grady is Canadian baller from North Bay that is coming off a great finish in the most recent tournament up there. If they can channel that momentum, they could surprise some people.
Broke Boiz (Joel Morrell and Mike Fitzsimmons)
A solid team from Rhode Island, they have sponsors and their own Insta which (per Chris Hornacek) makes them a real team. They have already competed in several tour stops this season, and have really good in game chemistry. A strong start in pool play will be important for them as they have lacked that in their past few tournaments, Joel went 2-3 in pool play in New Jersey. Joel is a lefty with some solid jam serves, and has mixed in a nasty arm drop that featured on the Spikeball instagram page. After recently winning a tournament at UConn, they will look to start out strong and get a good seed to make this their tournament.
Aces High (Cameron Korvemaker & Luke Bootsma)
Cameron has some great serves, including a nasty cut and great impression of Ryan Fitzgerald’s spinning backhand. When he catches fire, it is very hard not to bite on his fakes, and he has had the results recently in Canada to prove it, making the podium with Emerson Dean. Him and Luke have good chemistry, but Luke will need to show some improved serves to generate more breaks if they expect to continue advancing in bracket play.
Top 8 Prediction
1. Always on Two
2. Gock City
T-5. Our Flag is Better, Broke Boiz, No Regretsky, Unknown