Billy Ketch Allen

A Mostly Volleyball Blog


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Kinda Good History – Part 1

Part The First, in which we learn the origins of the Kinda Good Plan and the birth of legendary volleyball recruit, Danny Kinda.

Danny Kinda was born in Wisconsin in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-nine. With no boy’s volleyball in the region, our young hero elected to play on the women’s club team, the Wisconsin Waterfalls…

Okay, sorry. This is supposed to be the true account of the origins and history of Kinda Good. I promise to keep to the facts. Mostly. Continue reading


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San Francisco AVP Part 2 (A Song of Ice and Fire)

Some players make highlight reels. I am not one of those players. High-line shots aren’t included in a Best Hits montage and I’ve yet to walk around a tournament and overhear, “Did you see that routine dig Billy Allen had? That was amazing!”

My partner Stafford Slick on the other hand, is such player. Last year in San Francisco he bounced a back set in front of Casey Patterson and nearly out of the stadium before lifting off his goggles and parading around. This is now known as the Slick Slam. Part of me worries this kind of attention will set him back as he tries to top himself in front of a crowded stadium, hitting straight down instead of over the block like he is capable of. But that part of me is probably just jealous I don’t have the kind of velocity to get a hit named after me. Continue reading


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San Francisco AVP Part 1 (Memorable Matches)

It was an hour drive from our hotel to downtown Cabo San Lucas where we were going for a glass-bottom boat ride. I sat in the front seat of the large charter bus filled with guests of South of the Border Volleyball Vacations, answering questions to pass the time. After the usual talk about technique and the drama behind partner breakups, someone asked, “What’s your favorite game you’ve ever played?”

Thinking back over my career, my favorite matches aren’t necessarily my best finishes. I don’t remember the details of my first main draw win other than my opponent, Brent Doble, approached me after the match to recount all the lucky breaks I got. The most memorable matches usually have a few factors that make them stand out: the strength of opponent, how close the score was, and how well I played. Continue reading


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Seattle AVP (Thirteen Years in the Making)

I played my first AVP tournament my senior year of college with my Northridge teammate Ty Tramblie. Ty was the only other “beach guy” at Northridge so, despite the fact that we competed for the same setting position indoor, we’d play beach together as much as possible. At first, this consisted of games on the shallow dorm courts that felt more like kitty litter than actual sand. Then we heard rumors of a guy living near campus with a sand court in his backyard so we found out where and showed up one day. When no one answered the door we climbed the fence and crept to the backyard where some middle-aged men were playing doubles. They stopped their game, surprised to see some kids nervously crossing their yard. We introduced ourselves and asked if we could play next. That’s how we met Jim, a man who spent his entire twenties working on a fishing boat in Alaska before coming back a decade older and with enough money to buy a house in Northridge and build a sand volleyball court. We were lucky to find Jim’s court. It gave us and other Northridge players a place to play for years to come. Sometimes I’d sneak over to Jim’s on game days to get some doubles in, then hurry straight to the team locker room to shower all traces of sand off before our Northridge match. I couldn’t get enough volleyball. Continue reading


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Wild Card

In beach volleyball, you earn points based on your recent finishes. These points determine your seed for the next tournament and whether you will be in the main draw or the qualifier (or if you can get into the tournament at all). No one wants to be in the qualifier, it’s a brutal single elimination bracket in which you grind through multiple matches before the real tournament even starts. Even top players in the world have suffered casualties in the qualifier.

If your team hasn’t earned enough points, there is one other way to sneak into the main draw. The wild card. Every time you register for an FIVB tournament you have the option of applying for the wild card which grants you a spot in the tournament regardless of your points. How wild cards are chosen is a mystery to me. God-like promoters have the ability to reach down from on high and place a team into the main draw they feel would add something to their event. Usually Olympians.

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NYC AVP (Experiments In Time Travel)

The New York City Open was the first tournament in the new AVP Gold Series and had one of the deepest fields. The 35th seed in the qualifier was a team of two Olympians, Canadian Chaim Schalk and Brazilian legend Ricardo Santos. They would go on to qualify and upset the number 1 seeded team of Dalhausser/Lucena. Over on our end, Stafford and I lost our first match of the tournament to Ratledge/Zaun, 22-20, 18-21, 15-12. I didn’t play well, struggling to side-out from the windy side. I felt uncomfortable and wasn’t able to put much heat into my attacks. We were just coming off some solid play the week before in Moscow where we battled through multiple must-win games. New York felt like it was going to be a letdown tournament. This could be my worst finish in a couple years; the previous year I didn’t finish below 5th place in an AVP. From the way I felt after the match, it looked like that streak was over.

Sitting in our player box, defeated, my mind ran through a possible future…

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Moscow FIVB

They Don’t Make Disney Movies About People Who Don’t Go To Moscow.

Stafford and I went back and forth on whether or not to go to the Moscow FIVB 3 Star Tournament. It was an expensive trip and because all the top teams were going we would have to play in the country quota match to get into the qualifier. That meant we’d fly to Russia just to play against our fellow Americans Sean Rosenthal and Trevor Crabb, who had just beaten us easily two weeks before at the Austin AVP.

You don’t want to make decisions based on loss aversion but every once in a while the real world creeps into your mind. We were coming off two horrible international tournaments with first-round losses in both Florida and China and were not fired up about traveling across the world for potentially one match. But after dragging our feet for a few weeks, we decided to go for it. As I texted Stafford, “They don’t make Disney movies about people who don’t go to Moscow.”

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