The tournament of the year is here! With over 200 teams registered, the focus will still be on the 16-team Pro Division consisting of the top teams from the entire year. From the big guns at the top to the surprise auto-qualifiers, everyone has tons of talent and will be incredible to watch. Not only that, but everyone’s favorite team, GLOBAL BEANS !!! will be playing, and the Twitch stream will probably break a viewing record based off that alone. Besides that, there’ll be big aces from Heck and Bies, great defense from Schweppes and Anchored, and surely some upsets that no one would have predicted.
Cisek/Showalter (Tyler Cisek & Peter Jon Showalter)
Still the number one team in the world, Tyler and PJ will be looking to complete the never before seen three-peat at this year’s nationals. Probably the most well rounded of these top three teams, they combine great serves with good defense, clean overall offense and serve receive. This year, however, it seems as if the game has started to wear on them, evidenced from slow starts in pool play and rumors that PJ has been playing primarily in tournaments and not much besides that. Despite all that, at Midwest Regionals they came out hard in pool play, got the one seed, and blazed through bracket play including a game one win of 21-8 in finals. If they bring it that hard again at nationals, they will be hard to stop.
Boysterous (Preston Bies & Caleb Heck)
The only team to beat C/S in the last two years other than Anchored, Boysterous starts and ends with their serves and how many aces they generate. While Caleb has great cuts with both his right and left hands, Preston absolutely blasts the ball (attested to by his claim that he is the hardest server in the sport). What will be interesting to see is how they do when they are not landing as many aces against other top teams. For example, after beating C/S in the quarterfinals, they ended up losing to Mauktega in the finals when the serves were not landing at a high clip. Their serves are their strongest forte complemented by solid all around play, while their downfall if they have one will come due to lack of defense.
Mauktega (Kenny Ortega & Troy Mauk)
Call it a hot take, but Mauktega is underrated and they will show it at Nationals. The last time there was a potential three-peat in the making Troy Mauk was the one to end it, and he is poised to do it again with a new partner. While Troy can dazzle with serves and Kenny flies around generating a ton of touches. This leads to them being an incredibly complete and consistent team even when serves are not landing, and is why they should be considered as a top contender for best team in the world here at Nationals.
Flexual Healing (Jarratt Rouse & Travis Core)
After starting out they year as the number three team in the nation, Flexual seems to have lost a little bit of their role from the beginning of the season. At Southeast Regionals, they were upset by Trippy Lizard in the semifinals before taking third. When Travis is serving confidently, his wide ranging step out cut is one of the nastiest in the game, and with Nationals being on turf and not sand, expect him to be confident all the way. Jarratt is one of the best solo defenders in the game, and has been on a top three or four team all the way back to 2014. An important game for Flexual will be pool play against Mauktega, as if they can take the one seed in the pool it could bode well for their bracket matchups. Combine that experience with some new serves that he has started busting out, and him and Travis could burst all the way to finals.
Anchored LI (Ryan Fitzgerald & Anthony Alvino)
The only team to have beaten C/S every year for the last three years, Anchored LI shows that the more times they play a team, the more likely it is that they will come out on top. After finally having won a tour stop in Raleigh, they followed that up by taking first at East Regionals, and have podiumed again and again this year. Known for their defense, it still cannot be emphasized enough how well it keeps them in every single game, and allows them to generate breaks that no one else can. Combine that with probably the best backhand in the game from Anthony, and Ryan’s killer new drop and watch them provide a needed respite from all the aces in the Pro Division.
Trippy Lizard (Clark Marshall & Andrew Card)
Andrew and Clark are super fun to watch, and not just because of Andrew’s bun and Clark’s mountain man beard. Clark has possibly the nastiest cut serve in the game in terms of how hard and how far it jumps off the net. He started mixing in some left handed serves at Regionals, and if he has success with those, then it only maximizes his cut. Andrew has good serves as well, but contributes even more on the defensive side of things going back to his routes as Easily Dug. They’re coming off their best result of the year after taking out Flexual Healing at Southeast Regionals, and will build off of that at Nationals.
Spikers Synonymous (Taylor Church & Tyler Stokes)
If there is a powerhouse to the Dark Horse section, then it is Spikers Synonymous. The best thing about their resume, is that there is not a bad result on it. Their best tournament result came in Charleston where they got first place over Trippy Lizard, and they will be looking to add more names to their list. Church’s serves come in hot, whether it his cut serve or his jam, and he mixes in a drop and other off-speed options to keep them honest. Stokes has a great cut that jumps a lot off of the net, and he flies around the net running down balls and getting touches. With great chemistry, they can definitely surprise some of the other top teams here and make a run to the semis.
ClubSpike Worldwide (Patrick Drucker & Chris Wilkins)
ClubSpike has only played two tournaments together this year, but have plenty of chemistry together having played together in the past, as well as being former club mates. They have taken second at both tournaments they've attended (Chicago Grand Slam and Midwest Regionals), both times losing to C/S in the finals. While Drucker brings incredible power as well as a great drop, Wilkins has shown a very solid cut serve in his last two tournaments. If they can continue to play with as much poise against the top teams at Nationals, they should do very well.
Schweppes (Micah Zimmerman & Jesse Showalter)
Since they proved my preview for Grand Rapids wrong, I never underestimate Schweppes. While they do not have overpowering serves like a lot of teams in this preview, their serve receive is top of the line, and they bring nonstop defense to every game, every match, every tournament. Watch them because they actually try on defense, cheer for them because they create highlights, and prepare for them to bring it to every team they face.
Top 8 Prediction
4. Trippy Lizard
T-5th. Flexual Healing, Spikers Synonymous, Anchored LI, ClubSpike Worldwide