Let’s not break up Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner just yet

Sean Hayes

Put the dynamite away. Stow the C4. Let the fuse remain unlit. Let’s not blow up Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner just yet. Yes, they’ve had two bad tournaments, in New York and The Hague, Netherlands. Even then, I’m not even sure bad fits the bill.

So let’s hold on just a second before we start demanding a partnership breakup because of two rough – kind of rough – tournaments.

They took fifth in New York. For Patterson, this isn’t great, particularly when considering that the first loss was to 11th-seeded Ed Ratledge and Eric Zaun and they also benefitted from a forfeit from Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser, who bailed when Nick’s wife, Brooke, went into labor.

Their other loss came in the quarterfinals to Ricardo Santos and Chaim Schalk, the very team that put Dalhausser and Lucena in the contender’s bracket in the first place. I’ve written enough on both that it should be patently clear at this point that losing to that team should come with no shame whatsoever.

A fifth on the AVP Tour, with an elimination to a pair of Olympians – credentials Patterson’s own partner does not yet own – is not a tragedy or reason to switch partners. An off-tournament or match or game is just something that occasionally happens to professional athletes.

I think we would do well to remember that Patterson and Brunner only have six total tournaments under their belt. And in those six tournaments, they have notched more marquee wins than any other American team not named Dalhausser and Lucena.

They have beaten the German Olympians, Bockermann and Fluggen.

They took down Alison and Bruno, the Brazilian gold medalists and widely considered to still own the title of the best team in the world – in their first tournament!

In Rio, they took down the Dutch, Brower and Meeuwsen, sent Spain’s top team packing, and lost a tight three-setter for bronze against Italy’s Lupo and Nicolai, the 2016 silver medalists.

Even Moscow, where they took a ninth, wasn’t all that bad.

They won both matches in pool and lost a three-set marathon to Latvia’s Samoilovs and Smedins.

Sure, Patterson and Brunner had a rough outing in the Netherlands. They failed to break pool, and they lost to two teams that I think most would agree they should probably beat.

But a fifth in New York and one tough international tournament and some are calling for a breakup?


Even Patterson and Gibb, as phenomenal a team as they were, had their disappointments. They took a 17th in Poland in their seventh international tournament together. They were bounced in the first round of elimination play on many, many occasions.

It happens.

It happened to Dalhausser and Todd Rogers. It happened to Alison and Bruno.

It’s normal.

Hell, it happened to the Golden State Warriors. Remember, at the beginning of the season, when it was unclear how Kevin Durant would fit in with Steph Curry and the boys? And when they lost three in a row?

It happens.

The only element Patterson and Brunner seem to lack is consistency, which is common among new partnerships. Broken, out of system plays are always more difficult when you don’t really know where your partner is going to be or want the ball when, say, he sprays a dig 30 feet off the net.

Time fixes that.

Tournaments fix that.

Patterson and Brunner will be fine. Probably more than fine.

And besides, I can’t imagine the grass would be any greener for either of them than it is now. Their games complement one another perfectly.

From a blocking standpoint, Brunner should be considered among the top Americans with Dalhausser and Gibb and a healthy Tri Bourne. Rogers and Lucena, who have played with both Dalhausser and Brunner, have said the two are equals at the net defensively. This helps because the harshest critique on Patterson’s game is namely his defense. His offense, setting and transition game atones for whatever lack of defensive ability he may have.

Brunner is not a great setter by top-tier AVP and FIVB standards, but Patterson probably has the biggest hitting window of any American defender. He makes it work, probably more than any other defender could.

Brunner might not — yet — be as consistent a sideout player as Dalhausser or Gibb, but Patterson has a knack for finding creative ways to score points, or just do it himself off of serving. And besides, it’s not as if Brunner struggles siding out.

Offense, generally speaking, isn’t really this team’s issue.

This team has very few issues.

So no, let’s not blow this team up just yet.

They’re going to be just fine.


About the Author

Travis Mewhirter

Travis Mewhirter is the founder of PaperCourts.com. A graduate from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Mewhirter’s work has been featured in the Washington Post, Yahoo! Sports, Northwest Florida Daily News, and the Orange County Register. He currently writes for VolleyballMag.com, DiG Magazine, and Diehards.com, among others.