POREC, Croatia – Alongside the eight athletes named to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Beach Volleyball Team, USA Volleyball has announced the beach volleyball coaches that will head to the 2016 Olympic Games.
Four pairs of athletes comprise the U.S. Olympic Beach Volleyball Team, and with that each duo has selected their coaching staff for this year’s Olympic Games.
Coach of April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Kerri Walsh Jennings (San Jose, Calif.) is Marcio Sicoli (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). Lauren Fendrick (Carlsbad, Calif.) and Brooke Sweat (Fort Myers, Fla.) are coached by head coach Paul Baxter (Columbia Heights, Minn.) and assistant coach Andrew Fuller (Mountain View, Calif.). Baxter is also the head coach for Phil Dalhausser (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and Nick Lucena (Davie, Fla.). Jake Gibb (Bountiful, Utah) and Casey Patterson (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) are coached by Tyler Hildebrand (Mesa, Ariz.).
“The coaches that will represent the U.S. in beach volleyball at the 2016 Olympic Games are an integral part of our athlete’s preparation,” said Sean Scott, the USA Volleyball Director of Beach National Programs. “They bring a unique breath of experience and expertise that will be vital in accomplishing our goal of winning gold medals.”
MARCIO SICOLI – APRIL ROSS | KERRI WALSH JENNINGS
Marcio Sicoli will make his second Olympic appearance as a coach, this time returning to his hometown, Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian native graduated from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and this past year earned his Masters at Pepperdine University, where he also is an assistant coach in beach volleyball.
Sicoli joined the sideline with Kerri Walsh Jennings in the two and one-half years leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games, coaching her and Misty May-Treanor during their third gold medal run. This time around, he’s been with Walsh Jennings and April Ross during their entire quest leading up to the 2016 Olympics.
“It is a humbling experience to be part of something that is bigger than each individual, bigger than each country, but a reunion of the whole world celebrating sports,” Sicoli said. “I am humbled and amazed to have another chance to be out there and represent the United States.”
With an insider track to how big beach volleyball is in Brazil, and at the site of beach volleyball on Copacabana Beach, Sicoli said, “It will be one of the most competitive Olympics of all time, because of the progression of the game.
“I think that we are right there as a contender for a gold medal. The top six teams can take a fifth-place or win gold, as they have been doing for the [Olympic] cycle. I believe our team is exceptional playing this type of competition, the Olympics, which is a different animal. We are more experienced, a mix of calm, collected and aggressive that gives us a really good profiling to this type of competition.”
PAUL BAXTER – PHIL DALHAUSSER | NICK LUCENA
A former indoor player at Ball State and professional beach volleyball athlete, who pursued his own goal for the Olympics in 2004, Baxter is making his first appearance at the Olympics as the head coach of two pairs. In 2016 Baxter will be the head coach of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, as well as Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat, with assistant Andrew Fuller for the women’s pair.
“It’s an honor to work with these athletes,” Baxter said. “I know all the hard work they put in and being part of it and helping them hopefully bring home gold is a huge thing.”
Baxter began coaching Dalhausser and Lucena in 2015 and since then, the pair have risen to the occasion and are the top American men’s team and third seed at the 2016 Olympics.
“They’re great players and I think something that is going to be huge for them at the Olympics is using that bond that they’ve created and continue to build on throughout this entire process,” added Baxter. “If we can finish the goal, it’s going to be really special for them.”
Prior to the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics, Baxter coached at Loyola Marymount with the indoor women’s team in 2014. He still coaches indoor, currently with the A4 Volleyball club from Orange County, and will be coaching the 16s and 17s teams competing at the 2016 USAV Girls’ Junior National Championships. Baxter’s resume also includes coaching for the USA Volleyball Beach High Performance program.
PAUL BAXTER (HC)/ANDREW FULLER (AC) – LAUREN FENDRICK | BROOKE SWEAT
Paul Baxter and Andrew Fuller will coach first-time Olympians Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat. Fuller began coaching Fendrick and Sweat in 2013, prior to the start of the Olympic qualifying season. In January of 2015, Baxter joined on as the assistant coach, with Fuller at the helm. The duo switched roles at the beginning of 2016. Fuller, who was the assistant coach in beach volleyball at the University of Southern California from 2012-2015, recently left his position with the Trojans to dedicate his schedule full-time to Fendrick and Sweat earning an Olympic bid.
Fuller is a former athlete, beginning his professional beach career in 2007. A Pan American Games competitor that finished fifth in 2011, Fuller says coaching at the Olympics is “a huge privilege that can’t be taken lightly.”
“I come from a long family tradition of men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces. I chose sports as my path and it doesn’t compare in any way, but for me to get to represent the U.S. on the international stage is meaningful from that perspective. Knowing everything that people in my family have sacrificed for America, then to get to represent the U.S. in a totally different capacity, it puts it into perspective.”
Fendrick and Sweat are making their first Olympic appearance and “from the get-go, they’ve been keeping their heads down, getting better and taking on every challenge that has come their way,” Fuller added. “They’re an under-the-radar team that belongs on the world stage. They’re excited to take on the challenge of the Olympics. They’re ready for that moment and that stage.”
“It’s been a long process from the start of qualifying last year,” said Baxter. “There having been trying times and it’s not over. The goal is ahead in Rio, that’s where the focus has been and continues to be.”
TYLER HILDEBRAND – JAKE GIBB | CASEY PATTERSON
In addition to coaching Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, Hildebrand has coached for his alma mater team Long Beach State for seven years with the men’s indoor team, the last four years as Associate Head Coach. The three-time First Team All-American got his start before that though, coaching boy’s club teams since his sophomore year of college, a task he began with the HBC Boys Volleyball Club as the founder, director and coach.
His first taste of coaching on the beach came in 2011 with Patterson and his then partner Ryan Doherty. In the summer of 2012 he helped at practices with Gibb and Sean Rosenthal. It was December of 2012 that he made the switch to the sand a more permanent fixture, with Gibb and Patterson now as a team.
“Jake and Casey are great teammates and that gets them through a lot,” said Hildebrand. “The ups and downs of the four year quad, from travel to practices, three months straight of practices. Like the grind of the 2014 season, which was not as successful of a season as we would have liked. They’re great teammates to each other and that allowed them to get through a lot.”
Hildebrand has also done short coaching stints with Jennifer Kessy/April Ross, Emily Day/Summer Ross and A. Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Heading to his first Olympic Games, Hildebrand says he’s preparing for it like he would the World Tour.
“I want to get there and get a medal. As a player it wasn’t a goal of mine to get to the Olympics. For me, I want to downplay it and make it like any another competition. Avoid as many distractions as we can and deal with the challenges of it being a different schedule for us than we’re used to. I want to downplay as much of those things as possible. There is an excitement in the atmosphere of being there, but I’m trying to not think of it in any other way.”
In addition to coaching beach volleyball in Rio, Hildebrand will be lending his expertise with the indoor Men’s National Team. He has been working part time with the program as the setting coach since 2013.
All athlete and staff nominations to the U.S. Olympic Team are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee.