Marriage-like bond key to success in sand volleyball

Daniel Brey/Contributing Writer

In sports, chemistry is the key to success, period.

Apart from natural talent and conditioned skills applied by players in their sport, a healthy balanced level of compatibility within a team often leads to positive results.

“Chemistry is no doubt very important and very overlooked in today’s society,” FIU sand volleyball Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett said. “You have to have some chemistry in order to be great.”

Establishing solid chemistry among teammates in any collegiate sport is an arduous task all in itself, but in the sport of sand volleyball, a team’s connection means far more than just a simple high-five.

“Chemistry is probably the main task to focus on when you are finding out who your duals partner is,” junior sand volleyball player Jessica Mendoza said. “Just because you really have to know your partner’s tendencies and be able to communicate effectively.”

What separates sand volleyball from baseball, football, and even indoor volleyball is the need to depend on not multiple teammates, but just one teammate.

To win a match, a team must win two sets. Each set comprises two teammates lumped together. And each pair of teammates rely heavily on each other to succeed.

As a result, the diffusion of responsibility within the game of sand volleyball is significantly less varied when compared to other sports.

The increase in responsibility emphasizes the importance of creating and maintaining cohesiveness between each respective duals team in order for the overall team to succeed.

“It is very important for each other as teammates to get along on the court and play well,” junior sand volleyball player Maryna Samoday said. “How we relate to each other will play a factor in our overall team’s performance.”

Apart from chemistry on the court, it is as equally important to develop a relationship that extends beyond the confines of the sandy perimeter.

Much like a marriage, two duals partners must create a sense of comfort and trust that could only be accomplished in a setting that does not involve volleyballs traveling at double-digit speeds.

An exceptional off-the-court bond allows teammates to conform to each other’s pre-serve decision making, which consists of notifying the server to what position on the court to serve next.

Since being placed in the same duals team, Samoday and Mendoza have created a tightly knit bond that has allowed the pair to reach an impressive 14-2 record on the year.

“Samoday and I have a unique relationship,” Mendoza said. “It is like a marriage — our success on the court has been pretty much because of that comfort we share off it and how much we push each other.”

Although Buck-Crockett has mixed and matched most of the duals team lineups on a match-to-match basis, Mendoza and Samoday have managed to remain consistent and extremely successful.

During the Surf and Turf Tournament final on March 31, Mendoza and Samoday showcased their super glue-like bond by defeating fellow teammates and No. 1 ranked Kate Stepanova and Ksenia Sukhareva in an epic three-set match, which was ultimately decided by one factor, chemistry.

With the match tied up at two sets apiece, the duo of Mendoza and Samoday took advantage of a mental break down by Sukhareva late in the third set.

Unable to effectively calm her frustrated partner, Stepanova remained noticeably upset at her teammate’s inability to re-focus on the match, which eventually led to their 15-12 demise.

“It was a great match,” Buck-Crockett said. “Unfortunately for Kate and Ksenia, they came apart towards the end.”

The level of chemistry within the FIU sand volleyball team has, for the most part, told the tale of the tape of the inaugural season for the Panthers.

With the continuous switching up lineups and match ups early on in the season, a certain comfort level could not be established between the bottom three duals teams.

Now, after establishing a more concrete lineup during the latter part of the season, a visible improvement in body language and on the score sheet has proved once again the importance of the teammates connecting with one another.

“We were looking for the best chemistry throughout the year, and I believe we finally found it, Buck-Crockett said. “Because now the threes, fours and fives are able to win, and even the six spot.”