Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Opportunities. When it comes to living life, opportunities are what gives us excitement. I have been so fortunate to have so many amazing opportunities presented for me in life. My parents worked incredibly hard when I was a kid to make sure that my brother, sister, and I could do as many of the things we wanted to in life as possible. We didn't have a lot of money growing up. Our big nights out to eat were getting to order 3 items off of the $.59 menu at Taco Bell when we were on trips to tournaments. My parents saved money where they could and prioritized the money they had to be able to create opportunities for us kids. I remember nights where we would sit at the table and the kids would eat but mom and dad wouldn't. Only later in life did I find out it was because we couldn't afford enough food. I think the understanding of what it takes to create opportunities sometimes had made me truly grateful for the opportunities I have gotten in life. I owe every bit of who I am to my parents for the sacrifices they made for me along the way. It is truly humbling to think about.
In the volleyball world I have had some pretty dumb luck along the way, but since I met Ryan Mariano, he has created a lot of opportunities for me. Each one of them, I am so incredibly grateful for. This isn't about me though. This is about an opportunity that was presented to the guy who has created all of those opportunities for me. This is about Ryan.
Ryan may be the only person I know who is more of a volley geek than I am. His passion for the game when he was playing could be felt just by standing next to the court. Ryan's energy endeared him to the fans, the officials, the training staff, heck, even the owner of the AVP. Ryan's dream was to become an AVP champion. His résumé as a player is below:
• The 2013 AVP season opener in Salt Lake City will mark Mariano's 100th career AVP event. • Mariano improved his end of year player ranking five of six possible times from 2002 to 2009. • In Mariano's first championship match, in Huntington Beach in 2006 with Brent Doble, he became part of the lowest seeded team (14th) to make an AVP final since 1998. 2012: Mariano and Ratledge had two seventh-place finishes on the AVP Tour, and had a best of third place twice on the Cuervo Tour. 2011: In nine domestic events on three different tours, Mariano and Ratledge had a best of third twice, including in Manhattan Beach. 2010: In a repeat of the 2009 season, Mariano and Ratledge had a best of fifth in the season opener and added three seventh-place finishes. 2009: Mariano and Ratledge played in 14 AVP events, with a best of fifth in the season opener. The duo also had three seventh-place finishes, including at Manhattan Beach. 2008: Playing with Ratledge the whole season, the duo placed fifth twice and seventh eight times as Mariano was again ranked in the top 20 in season points at 16th. He was fifth in digs per game (5.28). 2007: Started the year playing four times with Larry Witt, finishing third in Dallas. After teaming with Doble four times, he established a partnership with Ed Ratledge. In seven events with Ratledge, he had a best of seventh place, in the season finale. Mariano was ninth in both digs per game (4.49) and aces per game (.50). 2006: Reunited with Doble, setting a new career best of fifth. Then a week later in Huntington Beach, won four straight contender's bracket matches against teams seeded eighth or higher, all in three sets, in advancing to his first championship match. Mariano concluded the season with his first top 20 ranking, ending 17th in points. He was fourth in digs per game (4.95) and ninth in aces per game (.57). 2005: Played the entire season with Matt Heath, with their second event, in Tempe, ending with a loss in the qualifier. That marked the last time Mariano did not play in a main draw. His season best of ninth marked the fourth time in his career he finished that high. He was seventh in digs per game (4.44). 2004: Competed in 10 events with four different partners. He placed ninth three times, including twice with Brent Doble and once with Adam Jewell. He finished the year fifth in digs per game (4.66). 2003: Played seven events with three different partners. Mariano advanced to his first main draw in what was his fourth career event, with a fourth different partner, in Hermosa Beach. In his first tournament with Rich VanHuizen, the duo placed 13th in Manhattan Beach. 2002: Began his pro beach volleyball career in Hermosa Beach, playing in the qualifier with Dan Valdes, placing 89th, and played in one other qualifier that season. College: Mariano went to Long Beach State, graduating with a degree in Communication Studies. Following school he played indoor volleyball in Austria for three years and Switzerland for three years.
As you read through that list of incredible accomplishments, what you probably noticed is that he never reached his dream as a player. He never got to win an AVP event. He came close, but never got the taste of what it felt like, just like I never got the chance to taste what it felt like to qualify for the AVP and play in the main draw.
Well, after Ryan finished his playing career, started his own club (Currently #3 in the counrty) won the national championship multiple times as a juniors coach, and had so much success there, he needed a new challenge. The opportunity presented itself when Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger needed a coach for the 2019 AVP season. Ryan took the job. He would travel to California for practices, or the guys would come out to Arizona. Ryan traveled all over to follow the tour for tournaments. Then one day, the guys got hot. The AVP Hermosa Beach Open came along. It coincided with the juniors National Championship on the same beach, so all of Ryan's players who had qualified for the event were there. They watched as their coach coached the pro's. They watched as Ryan got to fulfill his dream of becoming an AVP Champion. Center court was packed with people and hundreds more stood outside to watch the final on the big screen.
As the final points of the match came along, I used my coach's badge and moved my way onto the sand inside the stadium. I wanted to be sure that if they finished the game off and won it, that I was there to get some pictures to commemorate the moment and to get to celebrate it with my friend. Chase was ON FIRE blocking and was shutting down the 7'0"+ Ryan Daugherty. Casey was break dancing after points and Ryan was sitting in the box and where the once serious scowl had been, he began to crack a smile.
When the last ball hit the sand, Ryan just had a simple fist pump before standing up to go celebrate with the team. I watched as my friend walked out onto the court, hugged Casey and Chase and realized his dream. He wasn't an AVP Champion player in his day, but he was now an AVP Champion coach. I couldn't have been more happy for him! What an incredible moment in front of all of his players and their parents. In front of so many people whose lives he had affected. The moment was perfect!
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