Taylor Crabb Just Wants To Play


CINCINNATI, January 26, 2021 - Evan Cory was tired. Beyond tired, actually. He was beat in every way possible – mentally, physically, though perhaps not spiritually. 


The day – or days, more accurately – before, he had played in a one-day, 48-team, double-elimination match play tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio. Six matches he played, beginning at 9am. Six matches he won, the finals wrapping up close to 2am.


It’s a lot on the body, six matches, a fatigue compounded by the fact that he barely got a wink of sleep before he was off to the airport, flying back home to Louisiana. 


That day, after his six matches and maybe an hour or two of sleep and a long flight south, he was practicing. 


He was practicing because Taylor Crabb was in town, and Taylor Crabb wanted to practise. And when Taylor Crabb is in town, and he wants to practice, well, you ignore the fatigue, the soreness that’s turned your quads into cinderblocks, and you practice. 


Because it’s Taylor Freaking Crabb.


“For me it’s been really cool,” said Cory, who is one year out of college and will himself be making main draws on the AVP and FIVB soon enough. “Obviously we don’t get the chance to play what I think most people consider to be a lock to be an Olympian, either in this cycle or over his career. You don’t get the chance to play against that high level competition very often. It’s been really cool for me.”


In a year mostly devoid of beach volleyball tournaments and opportunities to travel and compete, Crabb has been perhaps the only player to take his personal brand and clout in the American beach volleyball community and elevate it to a new level. He has found virtually every way to play, on any surface and format available. 


This grassroots barnstorming tour he has cobbled together for himself has left him with thousands more adoring fans across a country that had already put him at the top of the list as the best player in it. 


A grass tournament in South Carolina? Sure, he’ll play that, grabbing Eric Beranek and Andy Benesh, two up-and-comers in the States, to win. Along the way, he talked trash, returned to the indoor style of play that once won him the NCAA Player of the Year at Long Beach State, despite standing just 1.85m tall. 


And here is the magic of Crabb, which only he, and maybe his brother, Trevor, can pull off: his opponents reveled in being on the receiving end of smack talk from Crabb. It was an honour for most simply to be acknowledged by one of the most talented players in the world. 


“I think probably the coolest thing about Taylor himself is he’s not a person who’s going to big time you,” Cory said. “If he’s on the court with you, he respects your game because you earned your spot there. If you do well against him, he’s just going to treat you like he would anybody.”


It didn’t end there. No, South Carolina was just the beginning. He drove an hour and a half from Greenville, site of the grass tournament, to Myrtle Beach. There was a local tournament nearby, hosted annually by Adam Roberts, a longtime professional who has played in more AVP tournaments than any active player.


Who would Crabb choose as his partner? Not his brother, Trevor, who was also competing, or his usual partner, Jake Gibb, who opted not to travel this year. Instead, he went with Nick Lucena, his No. 1 rival on the AVP and the only other defender in the U.S. in the same tier as Crabb. 


It was fun and whimsical, a hoot, so very different from the usual circumstances in which they are on the same court, made even funnier by the fact that they refused to block, playing two down the entire tournament.


“He’s so good," Lucena said. "We were just like ‘Alright, we gotta side out at 90 per cent and dig a couple balls.’ It was funny because people were freaking out. They didn’t know how to set with no one blocking. Taylor’s a special player.”


Not done yet, Crabb made it further south, to the Panhandle of Florida, which was hosting its bi-annual fours tournament, the Emerald Coast Classic. There, Crabb teamed with Trevor, Roberts, and Nolan Albrecht, cruising through the finals to win, leaving in his wake not a path of downtrodden teams he smoked, but new fans who enjoyed the process of being beaten down by one of the country’s best. 


Josh Wells, who has been competing in that tournament for more than a decade, said the highlight of the tournament wasn’t the half-dozen raucous player parties, or the perfect weather, or the play itself, or seeing all of his old buddies he sees twice a year at the tournament. 


His highlight, his big moment that weekend, was having the honour of losing to Taylor Crabb.  


None of this is intentional, of course. Crabb hasn’t been playing in these small, grassroots tournaments for PR or brand awareness. He just loves volleyball. Any surface. Any ball. Any format. He just wants to play. 


“I’m just trying to find anything to play,” he said, prior to the start of the Florida Region Best of the Beach tournament in November, a King of the Beach style tournament in which he finished second, losing only to Phil Dalhausser.


It was the final tournament for Crabb, the final unique format for him. He made one more stop in New Orleans, to see his girlfriend, Victoria Corcoran, before leaving for an off-season in Hawai’i, his home, with Trevor, leaving behind him a legion of new fans appreciating him for the love he has for this game, and the people in it. 


“It’s super cool,” Cory said. “You can go practise with him and talk volleyball, but the dude also, right after you’re done, you go grab a beer with him and he’ll talk with you and have a good time. It’s super awesome.”