It wasn’t too long ago that the beach volleyball duo of Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter were new to the Canadian and world beach scenes. Not new in terms of never playing the game at an elite level, but new as partners together.
It took a while to iron out all the kinks and to get on the same page, but lately the team have been tearing it up at world beach volleyball events. They recently finished first at the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball Open in Parana, Argentina, and last week they were the silver medallists at a world beach open in Qatar.
En route to their victory in Argentina, the Canadian Jewish duo twice duelled with – and defeated – the Israeli pairing of Sean Faiga and Ariel Hilman. Although no one keeps official statistics of this sort of thing, it’s likely the first time four Jewish guys contested a beach volleyball contest at such a high level.
“We knew them,” Binstock said on his return from Qatar a few days before their next event in Trinidad and Tobago. “We saw them earlier in the slam. They got a lot better. They’re very talented.
“We socialized with them. They’re good guys. We obviously had Jewish bonds,” he added.
According to a report on the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) website, Faiga and Hilman are touted as the new face of beach volleyball in Israel. Their goal is to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
In the opening round against the Israelis, Canada prevailed in a tough three-game set, defeating Faiga and Hilman by two games to one. Schachter, 24, and Binstock, 33, dropped the first game 23-25 before winning the next two by scores of 21-15 and 15-11.
For the Israelis, it was their only loss of the tournament – until they met Binstock and Schachter again in the quarter finals. In the knockout round, the Canucks dispatched the Israelis in two games, by scores of 21-14 and 21-15.
From there, Binstock and Schachter advanced to the semis, where they took three games to defeat the German duo of Sebastian Fuchs and Thomas Kaczmarek.
In the finals, they played the Gimalt cousins, Marco and Esteban, from Chile.
“They’re top 10 in the world,” said Binstock.
Going into the gold medal final, both teams sported perfect 6-0 records. But in the gold medal game, the Canadians got up early and never looked back.
“We were on our game in all areas,” Binstock said. “Sam was serving unbelievable. My block was good. It was pretty much all cylinders firing.”
In the end, the Canadians came out on top, winning in consecutive games by scores of 21-14 and 21-12.
It was their first world tour win and the first time in 18 years that a Canadian team won a world tour event.
As the competitive beach volleyball season winds down, Binstock’s and Schachter’s skills and tenacity have begun to pay off.
In their last three grand slam or world tour events, they’ve finished fourth, first and second. That’s a big improvement over their first foray into open or grand slam events. Last year in a grand slam in Sao Paulo, they finished 33rd.
Their first international competition together was in 2013 in a NORCECA Continental Cup event in Cuba. They finished second.
In the tougher grand slam event later that year in Sao Paulo, they finished 33rd. At an open event in Fuzhou, China, earlier this year, they were 25th.
They’ve done better in NORCECA Continental Cup events, finishing with gold, silver and bronze medals.
The two were part of the Canadian indoor volleyball team at last summer’s Maccabiah Games in Israel.
From Argentina, Binstock and Schachter caught a red eye to Doha, Qatar, for the Qatar open. Not many of the other teams competing in Parana did so. Most were concerned that jet lag would affect their performance.
It did, acknowledged Binstock, who played for Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games. “We were pretty destroyed from Argentina. By the quarter finals, “we just ran out of gas.”
But their mental toughness proved to be the difference. Despite their fatigue, they gutted out a strong performance.
“We knew going in we wouldn’t be able to play our best. We knew it was not going to be pretty. We ground it out through adversity,” he said.
Binstock said they’ve had some slow starts in major tournaments before, but with success has come an infusion of confidence.
“Now we go in believing we can beat any team on any given day,” he said. “It’s kind of a theme for us, that no matter how bad things are looking, we can turn it around and win the match.” n