20.05.2020 - Vienna, Austria
Blocking is one of the coolest skills in beach volleyball. The feeling of stopping an opponent’s attempt to put the ball on the court is one of the greatest feelings beach volleyball players enjoy on the court – and the same can certainly be said about the fans who go bonkers in the stands every time our ‘Major Block’ clip is played.
Here at the Beach Major Series we’ve been fortunate to watch the best blockers in the planet competing in our events for the last five years, so the task of picking the top five in that skill was a very tough one. We used a few stats here and went with our own criteria to put this list together, so don’t take it so seriously and don’t get mad if your favorite player didn’t make it, ok?
Spoiler: As five spots weren’t enough we cheated a little bit and included a couple of honorable mentions, but we're sure you don't mind, right?
The Canadian lefty didn’t appear in any of the Series’ first six events, but it didn’t take long for her to establish herself as one of the best blockers in the sport. Playing in front of a top defender like Heather Bansley certainly helps, but Brandie’s impressive vertical, her long arms and accurate reading have proven to be a tough challenge for opponents over the last few years and more than enough to make up for her 1.79m-height. At 27, the Canadian star has compiled a total of 230 blocking points in the 14 Beach Major Series she competed at, averaging impressive 16.43 stuffs per event. Her best season was without doubt 2018, when she was the best blocker of both the Hamburg World Tour Finals, with 23 points, and the Gstaad Major, where she scored 38, her highest mark in the Series. That performance helped her to secure her only Beach Major Series medal to date, a bronze. In that season she was also the fourth-best blocker of the Fort Lauderdale Major and, unsurprisingly, took home the FIVB’s World Tour Best Blocker award.
Kira Walkenhorst last appeared in a Beach Major Series event in 2017, but her name still hangs right up there among the best blockers of the game. At 1.84m, the German star is one of the tallest blockers on Tour, but her success was also built upon great technique and superb timing at the net. Kira’s blocking was just the perfect fit to Laura Ludwig’s defense as their run between 2016 and 2017, when they won the Rio Olympics, the World Championship and the World Tour Finals, showed, but it also reflected in the Beach Major Series. The Olympic champion was in the top-7 in blocking points in all tournaments she played at, except the 2017 Fort Lauderdale Major, when she had a temporary partner in Julia Grossner. She was the best blocker of the 2016 Hamburg Major and Toronto World Tour Finals, scoring 29 points in both tournaments and took home the FIVB World Tour Best Blocker award that season. Kira averages 20.5 blocking points in the 12 events she competed at, having a total of 246 points scored between 2015 and 2017, and moving towards a comeback at the age of 29, odds are these numbers will be significantly higher in the future.
Sarah Pavan can happily say that most of her volleyball skills transitioned pretty well to the sand, but certainly the one that set her apart in beach volleyball was blocking. At 1.96m, the left-handed player quickly became an impenetrable wall at the net, earning FIVB World Tour Best Blocker awards in 2015, 2017 and 2019, and her success in that skill has translated in some very impressive stats at the Beach Major Series. For starters, Sarah is the only female player to register more than 400 blocking points. Her total 416 points and her average of 23.11 points per tournament are both the highest in the Series. The Canadian just missed the top-ten in blocking in three of the 18 events she played at and has topped the ranking standings six times. She crossed the 25-point barrier in six occasions and reached unbelievable 44 points at the 2017 Poreč Major, the most a woman has ever scored in a single tournament. If you are still not convinced, just take a look at how Sarah scored the point that gave Melissa Humana-Paredes and her the gold medal at the World Championship in Hamburg last year.
Talita Antunes’ blocking skills are as steady and efficient as pretty much every other aspect of her game and, don’t be fooled, that’s a compliment of the highest standard to the veteran. A three-time Olympian, the 1.81m-tall Talita has arguably been the best Brazilian blocker of the last decade and that’s a label every beach volleyball player in the world would be proud to have. The 37-year-old veteran blocked Larissa Franca’s and her way to the top of the podium of the 2015 and 2015 Gstaad Majors, topping the blocking standings in those tournaments with 25 and 28 points respectively, but her trajectory is different than all other players in this list in a certain way. The Brazilian has the lowest personal record among all five (28 points in Gstaad 2016), but has been consistent enough to register ten points or more in 11 of the 14 Beach Major Series tournaments she played at. She missed the 2018 season to give birth to her son, Renato, but returned at the same level being the second-best blocker of the 2019 Vienna Major with 25 points. Talita has scored impressive 232 points, averaging 16.57 per tournament.
Tanja Hüberli was as at her absolute best during the 2019 Beach Major Series season and that was the final step she took to establish herself among the best blockers in the world. The Swiss rising star could certainly make an argument for being the best blocker of the entire Series this past season as she ranked first in blocking points at the World Championships in Hamburg with 35, was third in Gstaad with 24 and fifth in Vienna with 14. But Tanja has had a strong presence at the net for years now as she registered 20-point performances in four other tournaments – three of them during the 2017 season and a 26-point event that put her in the blocking top-three of the 2016 Klagenfurt Major. Her success at the net has a lot to do with her 1.90m-tall body, but also with her focus and calm when trying to stop her opponents. The Swiss has managed to score a total of 260 points in the 17 Beach Major Series she played at, averaging 15.29 points per event.
The legendary American is arguably the best blocker to ever step on a beach volleyball court. A seven-time winner of the FIVB World Tour Best Blocker award, Kerri continues to make great use of her 1.91m-tall frame at the age of 41 as she’s currently attempting to qualify to her fifth-straight Olympics. Injuries, unfortunately, have limited her participation at the Beach Major Series to just ten events. The three-time Olympic champion registered 129 blocking points (averaging 12.9 per event) and 55 of them happened in 2016, when she was the second-best blocker of the Gstaad Major (23) and the third-best of the Hamburg Major (22).
The Brazilian set the Beach Major Series on fire on her first season by averaging 18.67 points per tournament in 2019. The cherry on the top was her very first appearance, when she scored 29 points to top the blocking standings at the Gstaad Major. That was, however, one of just three tournaments she played at. Don’t be surprised in the 22-year-old, 1.94m-tall Brazilian keeps or improves these numbers over the years and sneaks into the list.