Casey and Me

A week after the fact, I realized I still haven't told about my weekend tournament with living California legend Casey Jennings. A bit of background info on Casey for those who aren't familiar, he's a 6 time AVP tournament champion in his 12th year of competitive beach volleyball. Though his wife, Kerri Walsh, may have the more storied career, Casay himself is consistently on one of the top American teams since 2004, and is currently one of the most well known men's beach volleyball players in the world. One highlight I remember was back in high school, I think the summer of '05, when Casey and Matt Fuerbringer had to come all the way through the loser's bracket in order win the Hermosa Open, while I and a group of my peers were there at a sort of training camp. Needless to say, his never give up attitude made me a fan, and him a bit of an idol.

So when he gave me a call the Tuesday before the tournament and told me he needed a partner for the NVL Championships in Miami, he caught my interest right away. Then he stroked my ego a little and told me he only wanted to play with a blocker he felt he could win with, so if I turned him down he wasn't sure if he would even play. Now I'm not sure if someone as dedicated to the sport as Casey Jennings would have followed through on that if a relative newbie such as myself couldn't make it, but my tires had been pumped up enough that I couldn't say no. Even if it did mean cutting my down time short.

When I got to Miami, it poured rain. It was still warm, but the rain came down hard. I almost wish some of it had stayed for the weekend, but alas it was not to be. I personally went through a flat of Gatorade, and at least as many bottles of water over the course of the weekend, and I still felt dehydrated at the end of the weekend. But no matter how dead I felt, Casey had a knack for keeping me and himself fighting for every point and I found myself getting better no matter how drained the longer the matches went. Probably for a combination of the following reasons:
- Casey is one of my heroes, I didn't want to let him down
- The best players find a way to make both themselves and their teammates better
- His refusal to let hecklers get the best of him helped to relax me, take the pressure off.

Overall, I was upset we finished 7th. I thought we could just as easily been semi finalists. But it's not every day you get to play with one of your heroes, and overall we didn't play poorly, just let the heat take its toll in our eventual demise. So all I have left to say to Casey is thank you for continuing to be a mentor to me, whether you knew you were one or not.

An additional note. My new roommate, Breanne Duncan, insisted on making me a Twitter account, so I guess I have one now. I don't know much about it, but I'll give it a try. So feel free to follow my official Twitter feed: BenSaxton13

Ben Jammin

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