Chase Frishman was sitting on his porch in Victoria Beach when he laughed a little at his own irony. He struggles, he said, for whatever reason, with perfectly in system passes.
But put him a little out of system?
“I’ll put it on a tee,” he said.
And so he did, holding onto a three-point lead in the 1-star FIVB finals in Shepparton, Australia. Avery Drost had passed a float serve low and in front of him, an exceptionally difficult ball to set, and there Frishman went, scrambling, crawling to get his platform on the ball, putting up a perfect set for Drost to bury – as Frishman lay in the sand, for if he were to stand up, he’d have been sandwiched between Drost and the enormous Australian, Chris McHugh, who’s listed as 6-foot-6 but plays closer to 6-10.
“They’re fighters, these Americans,” the announcer said.
Indeed they are.
Drost and Frishman, playing in their first FIVB together, began in the qualifier. They whipped one Australian team and then the next, ran consecutive two-setters in pool play, and just like that these scrappy little Americans were the recipients of a first-round bye.
Thailand went down in three in the quarters, and yet another Australian team, the two seed, went down in two.
To the finals they went.
It’s the first time either have been in a major final (unless you count Cuervos, in which Drost made one, in 2012). Both have made semifinals on the AVP – Drost has been in four, Frishman in one, in Hermosa Beach last year – but this was a new stage.
Sure, it’s a one-star, but McHugh, who’s just 28, has been playing professionally for Australia for a decade now. He showed why. His partner, Damien Schumann, is a fine talent, but there’s a reason McHugh optioned every ball he could. He took them from the 10-foot line. From the 5-foot line. Fading away. Broad jumping into a pushed pass. It wasn’t enough.
Frishman and Drost were grinders, surprising even the announcers at times, so astounded they were that Frishman was getting his hands on some shots and swings that, frankly, anybody who has never seen Frishman play should rightfully be astounded by.
“It feels like we’ve been here for 3 months,” Frishman said.
Just a week. But internationally speaking, they’ll be here for quite some time – and likely out of the qualifiers.
“I’m so happy,” Drost said. “They’re a great team. They play a fun style of volleyball. It was our privilege to play against them, in Australia. To be doing this with Ledge here, who’s become like a brother to me – I love this guy, and just so humbled by this moment, with this guy, with you guys, it’s so wonderful.”
It was a wonderful weekend for American volleyball as a whole. While Frishman and Drost proved to be the qualifier-to-champion darlings – Eric Zaun and Adam Roberts also made it out of the qualifier, losing to McHugh and Schumann in the quarterfinals – the American women were juggernauts.
The new partnership of Caitlin Ledoux and Jace Pardon cruised through to the finals, winning four matches in straight sets, their first being a 21-5, 21-7 waxing of Fiji.
They wouldn’t lose until they met – guess who? – another American team in the finals: Amanda Dowdy and Irene Pollock, who battled through a pair of three-set matches to make the finals and won one more to close it, 21-17, 18-21, 15-12 over Pardon and Ledoux.
Four American teams. Two gold medals. One silver.
More importantly: “I’ve just been looking at these kangaroos,” Frishman said. “And some funky looking birds.”
3-0 and an opportunity to win pool this morning against Hong Kong (3:30 PT). Loving the animal kingdom here, but still very confused by the purpose of vegemite? Can’t be made for human consumption…. On another note, @averydrost is controlling the net like a beast, but is getting crushed by me in the #kangarookount (66-2). @fivbbeachvolleyball @usabeach @avpbeach @ledgelegion_ @slunksswimwear #shepparton #avpstrong #canyouspottheroo