July 20, 2005
Fans of indoor volleyball will quickly recognize his name as a standout player on every level he has competed. Beach volleyball fans, and players alike, will do well to take notice of Sean Rooney as he transitions to the beach game.
Rooney didn't just play on national teams in high school, he was the MVP of his second AAU national championship team. He was the Illinois state player of the year before making Waves in college. At Pepperdine, he was chosen the AVCA Freshman of the year, became just the seventh male to be named All-American all four years, and was the 2005 AVCA Player of the Year. In helping Pepperdine to its first national title in more than 10 years, Rooney was chosen as the MVP of the NCAA Championships.
The road he took seemed to be a perfect track to an indoor career that could possibly take him to the Olympics via the U.S. National Indoor team.
"It definitely has been a thought," Rooney said. "But now on top of that there are new thoughts. Instead of five, six, even eight years indoors and then going to the beach, I'm thinking about what I could do by getting started now playing on the beach. I realize how much fun it is and what a great sport it is."
Playing with his college roommate, John Mayer, the pair played in the qualifier in Santa Barbara and lost their first match. The next event, though, they advanced to the main draw.
"We trained hard before San Diego," Rooney recalled. "It was a war to get in. That was one of the hardest days of volleyball I've had."
Their reward? A first round match-up with the top seeds, Olympians Dax Holdren and Jeff Nygaard. The duo finished 17th in that tournament and then qualified again in Cincinnati, where they knocked off the 10th-seeded team and finished 13th.
In Belmar, Mayer had a previous commitment so Rooney instead played with Adam Roberts. Despite the fact that Rooney switched sides, the duo took a 13th after defeating ninth-seeded Mark Williams and Scott Wong, who is an assistant coach at Pepperdine.
Now for Hermosa Beach, Mayer is back and the two will find themselves in a new situation getting to watch the qualifier instead of playing in it. The pair has accumulated just enough points to get seeded directly into the main draw, the next step of progress for them.
"I think about it a lot when I'm off the court," Rooney said about his progress in transitioning to the beach game. "On the court I just want to compete. I've enjoyed the challenge a lot because you are confronted with it right away. In the indoor game, you can hide a weakness for a while. On the beach, you change it or you'll lose."
"I'm having more fun than I ever imagined."