24.06.2020 - Vienna, Austria
Setting is one of the most beautiful skills in beach volleyball. Hitting the ball hard is really cool and nothing boosts morale like a stuff block, but the beauty of a perfect set going up and down or right and left at the net is nearly unparalleled. Furthermore, the way a team sets the ball oftentimes reflects the essence of its game and differentiates it from their competitors.
Even though they don’t score points with their sets (most of the times, at least), players take a lot of pride in being great setters (just try calling a double on them, ref!), which makes them spend hours and hours refining their craft in the skill.
The Beach Major Series has witnessed the rise of several phenomenal setters over the last years and here are the five, in alphabetical order, who really took the skill to another level.
Adrian Carambula has easily the craftiest game in the entire World Tour. Unsurprisingly, he was awarded as the Most Entertaining Player of the 2018-2019 beach volleyball season. Watching the Italian play is a delight and most of it is due to the unbelievable up tempo offense his teams run on the sand court. That, of course, wouldn’t be possible if the lefty defender wasn’t a fantastic setter, but more than his soft touch on the ball, what make Carambula a special setter are his creativity and his willingness to take risks in order to catch his opponents by surprise. Anytime an opponent serves his partner Enrico Rossi, it gets into a guessing game because he can actually hit the ball anywhere in the court at any given pace. Even though Carambula and Rossi aren’t the tallest or strongest players to compete at the Beach Major Series, they’re often considered among the toughest teams to play against because they’re just unpredictable offensively and have some of the best hands in the sport.
Bartosz Losiak is another adept of the “play fast” type of offense. He is, truth be said, one of the actual mentors of the style as partner Piotr Kantor and him have successfully been using it since the early stages of their partnership, when they won Under-19, Under-21 and Under-23 world titles a decade ago. The fast-paced and varied offense has become a trademark of the team that has won two silvers and one bronze medal at the Beach Major Series. As Losiak once told us, the idea is to mimic the offensive system of the indoor volleyball game, which they played growing up in Poland. The duo, which has been together at the World Tour since 2009, likes to use the entire extension of the net to run its offense, becoming a true nightmare to blockers and defenders across the net who helpless try to anticipate their moves. Probably both of them could make the list, but we’re going with Losiak, who was awarded as the World Tour Best Setter in 2017.
Bruno is one of the most technically-gifted players to compete at the World Tour and his outstanding talent level shows very clearly when he sets his teammates up at the net. A 2015 world champion, the Brazilian has played with two of the most lethal attackers in the sport in Alison Cerutti and Evandro Gonçalves, but it’s fair to say neither of them would have become the fantastic hitters they are without Bruno’s perfect sets. The Rio 2016 Olympic champion is very accurate in preparing the ball for his teammates and he has the offensive versatility to play fast or do tricky moves at the net when needed. He’s also a very intelligent player, who’s capable of reading the game very precisely and adjusting his team’s strategy accordingly. The veteran, who won six Beach Major Series medals over the last five years, is yet to win a Best Setter award at the World Tour, but he has done it in five different seasons at the Brazilian Tour.
Janis Smedins ranks really high among the best all-around beach volleyball players competing at the Beach Major Series. The Latvian Olympic medalist can block, dig, pass, serve and side out at a really high level, but it’s his setting that’s not of this world. The 32-year-old veteran has one of the softest hands in the World Tour and he puts them to great use in his partnership with Aleksandrs Samoilovs. Smedins is a really versatile setter, which gives him the ability to dictate the pace of his team’s offense and instantaneously adjust it to what the match requires. He is really solid and consistent too, which made of him the World Tour Best Setter in both the 2013 and 2017 seasons. The fact that Smedins, a bronze medalist in London 2012, is also very well-versed on hitting on two, especially being a lefty playing on the right side, adds to his setting as well as he constantly keeps opponents guessing what he’s going to do when trailing a pass at the net.
Do you recall ever seeing Phil Dalhausser being called for a double? Me neither. That’s because it probably never happened. The American veteran has one of the cleanest touches in the World Tour and for a 2.06m-tall player, that's quite something. Truth be said, Phil somewhat revolutionized the sport when he first appeared 15 years agio with a massive block, a powerful serve and some of the greatest hands of the game. He’s said more than once in interviews that he refined his touch through several hours of work in his living room. He’d put on a movie on TV and would touch the ball up and down while seating on his couch while he watched it. The goal was that his touch was silent enough it wouldn’t bother him while watching the movie. It clearly worked as he’s won a record seven World Tour Best Setter awards in 11 seasons. Phil’s sets are mostly up and down, but they’re extremely consistent and have been putting his partners in great position to score for nearly 15 years now.