COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 20, 2018) – During the 2004 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers, Visa debuted an ad remembered by many in volleyball.
In the ad, beach volleyball players Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, who would be playing in their first Olympic Games as a team later that year in Athens, were playing on a cold and snowy beach against an unnamed team.
That ad proved prescient as two U.S. volleyball teams, one men’s and one women’s, are in Moscow this week for the first stop of the 2019 CEV Snow Volleyball European Tour.
Four-time Olympian and gold medal setter Lloy Ball, who played six years with a professional team in Russia, will lead the U.S. Men. His team includes Tomás Goldsmith, Kevin Owens and William Robbins. All are based in the Indiana area and play on Ball’s indoor semi-pro club Team Pineapple.
Professional beach volleyball player Karissa Cook assembled the women’s team, which includes beach players Emily Hartong, Katie Spieler and Allie Wheeler.
Neither team has experience playing on the snow.
“We haven’t trained a lot in the snow,” Ball said. “It’s a new discipline. My expectations are high, but I don’t know how it is going to turn out. We play a lot on grass.”
Cook was likewise unsure of her team’s prospects.
“We’ve been doing our regular training this week,” Cook said from Southern California. “We have been waiting for snow to get here, but it’s still 50 degrees out.
“It’s been more mental preparation.”
Snow volleyball is played three-on-three with one substitute for each team.
Unlike the Visa ad, where Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor are in their bikini uniforms, the players wear warm clothing and cleats.
There was a snow volleyball exhibition at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. According to the FIVB web site, “The goal is to have a full-fledged World Tour from 2018/2019 season (minimum three stops within the territory of three different Confederations), a World Championship in 2020 and a demonstration event at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne.”
Play in Moscow began with qualifying on Thursday, but the U.S. teams both received wild cards into the main draw, which begins Friday.
“The goal any time you step on the court is to win,” Cook said. “But we want to stay safe and healthy. I don’t know that we know what we are expecting in terms of playing surface. We are being flexible.”
Ball is looking forward to seeing friends in Russia.
“I had a thousand phone calls once it went public,” he said. “The second night, I am going to see (U.S. Men’s National Team libero) Erik Shoji play. His club team is playing in Moscow.
“I thought it would be nice to watch high-level volleyball. We want to experience some of Russia.”