Note: Tom Witt wrote this article.
The snow is melting, the days are getting longer, it’s time to pile into your mom’s van or put those frequent flyer miles to good use, it’s that time of year again: roundnet season!
Whether you have spent all winter bearing the cold and practicing with your buddies, hitting serves against the wall when your roommate isn’t home, trying to find an indoor space to get your roundnet fix, or travelling the world playing in tournaments, IT’S ROUNDNET SEASON BABY!
The first tournament of the 2019 Spikeball Roundnet Association season and the first installment of the West Tour will be in sunny San Diego, CA. The tournament will feature multiple divisions: Open Premier, Advanced and Intermediate, Women’s Advanced and Intermediate, and a Youth Division. With back-to-back defending national champions Cisek/Showalter unable to make the trip due to a schedule conflict, the first premier-level pitchers of the year are ripe for the taking! Roundnet players from across the nation are ready to break off that winter rust, show everyone their fancy new serves, and compete against friends, old and new!
The Premier Division features a strong group of established teams, such as SubPar Team (Jacob Martinez and Josh Fragiacomo), Spikers Anonymous (Taylor Church and Spencer Schmidt), HOOPLA (Schon Siguenza and John Shurance), Elysium (Logan Cornelius and Brian Childs), and Death Eaters (Zac Vance and Marlon Fleming), who are looking to continue to climb the ladder to roundnet supremacy. The Death Eaters have some lofty goals for 2019 and practiced hard in the off-season to help achieve those goals.
Zac Vance of Death Eaters dives to set a ball at 2018 Nationals.
Vance told me, “In the off-season I’ve been working on playing defense more aggressively and cleaner hits off the net after getting a touch. As a team we’ve been working on consistent hitting from both of us, since offense is a weak point for us.” Vance also stated their goals for the San Diego Tour Stop and the season. “This tournament we want to come out swinging earning a top 6 seed and hopefully podium from there. We want to rely on our defense to earn us breaks and strong serving to put the other team on their heels. This season we’re looking to qualify for the Pro Division at nationals and give some of the top teams a run for their money.”
Along with those established teams, the field contains a few, dare I say EPIC, mashup teams right out of a roundnet fan’s wildest dreams. Some may even say akin to fantasy draft mode on NBA Live 2005. A few of the notable mash-up teams are:
- ChornaBoles - Skyler Boles and Chris Hornacek will combine craftiness with pure power
- Shouldn’t Have Pushed - The dashing duo of Shaun Boyer and Jarratt Rouse is sure to turn heads
- Shlong up & Slick hit - Former national champ Troy Mauk and Erik Schlick already have one tournament title under their belt this winter
- Two Equally Tan/Loud Individuals - Mauk’s former partner, former national champ, Chico State alumnus and aspiring pro-volleyball player: Preston Bies and nasty server Carter Clem
- Handsome Vacuums - Zach Zimmerman and Buddy Hammon (2018 West Regionals 3rd place finishers) are looking to clean up the competition
- Hibachi - Zach Wood and Zack Duffy are looking for a solid follow-up on their 2nd place finish at Santa Cruz in December
Skyler Boles sets a ball at 2018 Nationals.
This will be the first time Hornacek and Boles play together in a tournament. Though their game play styles differ immensely, they are looking forward to meshing their unique skills sets together for success. Hornacek continued “I’m excited to finally play a tournament with Skyler Boles. He's a legend in his own right and I'm glad that I’m getting to play with him before we truly get too old to compete at the highest level. We have completely opposite play styles, but I’m excited to see how we come together. Expect to see us on the podium.” Do opposites attract? We will see on Saturday!
Boles is looking to continue his reign as one of the top players on the roundnet circuit. “I am stoked to play with Chris. Never done it and the intensity will be fun. His power and my lack of it should be a fun combo,” Boles added. “My goal is to win a pitcher for the 8th year in a row and go for a 6th regionals championship in a row. But most of all, looking to play some tournaments, compete with the youngsters, and have as much fun as I possibly can.” That’s what the sport is truly all about.
As with any sport, there are teams looking to retain their status as the best in the land and newcomers looking to ascend the ranks and surpass them. West region dark horse teams competing in the Premier Division, Kahooters (Jacob Payer and Ryan Baillargeon) and Big Bucks (Sam and Ben Buckman), have been putting up some INSANE videos of great serves, spikes, and a few foot blocks to boot. They have had the luxury of good winter weather to train outside in Southern California, and are ready to show the nation the dividends of their hard off-season work. Payer told me a bit about this. “Our off season training has been getting time to develop our serves with each other, learning how to play defense with the help of Chris Bradley, Erik Schlick, and Warren Foote, and our hitting with the help of Preston Bies.” Not a bad group of folks to learn from.
Payer continued, “Our aspirations for the college season is to take home the national title in Georgia next month, for Big Bucks, to go to all the west tour stops & make a name for themselves, and for Kahooters to hopefully play enough tour stops to swoop into the pro division!” It will be a hard fought tournament and season with many up and coming teams trying to make a name for themselves.
The Women’s Advanced Division features multiple tour stop champions and podium finishers. A few teams in that division that stand out are JK (Jordi Vigna and Kayla Ruiz), TBD (Christina Coppola and Jackie Yoo), THUS (Kayla Wu and Kalin Miramontes), and Helm/Ortlip (Mey Helm and Ashley Ortlip).
Jackie Yoo, 2018 Seattle Tour Stop Women’s Division champion, told me a few things she has been working on in the off-season, “For me service pressure has been pretty big, as well as working on different types of shots. I felt like before I was a pretty generic hitter, so definitely want to get more creative. Being able to read where the defense is and shot select based on that has been crucial for me in the offseason. Thanks Carter Clem for helping me.”
Jackie Yoo dives for a ball at 2018 Nationals.
When I asked Yoo about her goals for the tournament and season she let me know, “I think the overall goal for me is to just learn how to play with different types of players. I feel privileged because I get to play with a lot of different people, and that’ll hopefully allow me to grow and be a better overall support to no matter who I play with. Also high five a lot, dive a lot, and laugh a lot!”
The Open Advanced Division features 40+ teams and is composed of a few premier ranked ballers and some hungry advanced players looking to qualify for the Premier Division. Gucci Swagball (Gage Maddox and Jaren Gronberg), Murtle Gang (Warren Foote and Marcu Decouto), and Fry Guys (Ravi Kandula and Kai Pham) are strong contenders to make the podium. The top 2 teams from the Advanced Division will qualify for Premier.
One new, hotly debated rule change will be sure to incite some excitement this season. Rule 4.5.2.” If the server commits a Service Fault (see 4.6) the serving team has one more attempt to hit a legal serve.” That’s right, even if you hit rim or miss the net completely on your first serve, you’ll get a second chance to land a legal serve. This will be the first official SRA Tour Series event in which this rule will be utilized.
I personally cannot wait to see the intense competition, how the new rules play out, and what these roundnet athletes have cooked up in the off-season skill wise. I think Mey Helm sums it up nicely. “My main goal is to have fun with my friends in the roundnet community, and to make a bunch more friends! My favorite part about tournaments is seeing all of my friends and getting to cheer them on.” That’s what the roundnet community is truly all about!
With storylines a-plenty heading into the 2019 roundnet season, there are many burning questions on the minds of the roundnet world:
- What will the new double fault serve rule do to the game at each level?
- Will Cisek/Showalter continue their domination and overtake Chico Spikes as the most dominant/best open team in roundnet history?
- With Ogres Heroes splitting up, who may be the most dominant team in roundnet history, the number 1 spot in women’s roundnet is up for grabs.
- Will Skyler Boles add even more hardware to his massive collection and continue his streak of regional crowns, dating back to 2014?
And so much more! We will have to wait until October for most of these questions to be answered, but in the mean time, in the words of the roundnet legend Chris Hornacek, LET’S GO!!!!!
1st: Two equally tan/loud individuals
3rd: Shouldn’t Have Pushed
4th: SubPar Team
Check out the tournament action this weekend on Twitter/Persicope at @SpikeballRA!
Follow along with the Premier and Women's brackets here ->