Rogers teams up with fellow Gaucho alum Brunner

 

Todd Rogers - Beach Volleyball

Todd Rogers is entering his 19th season as a professional beach volleyball player.

 

Back when he was an assistant coach with the UCSB men’s volleyball team, Todd Rogers recruited a 6-7 kid out of Ridgefield, Conn., named Theo Brunner.

Rogers obviously had a good eye for talent. Brunner went on to earn first-team All-American honors for the Gauchos in 2007.

Now, it’s Brunner’s ability as a beach volleyball player that’s caught the attention of “The Professor.”

As he enters his 19th season of playing professional beach volleyball, Rogers, 40, has called on the fellow UCSB alum to be his partner for the international and domestic tours this year, and, quite possibly, for a run at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“For me, this is kind of coming full circle,” Rogers told Presidio Sports about combining with the player he recruited and then coached for two years at UCSB. “If we do well, then we will take a crack at going to Rio. If we don’t do well, then I will send Theo on his way forward to play with a younger — and, hopefully, better — partner. And, hopefully, Theo will have absorbed some of my experience and wisdom from playing on tour for 18 years now.

“I want to see Theo be successful now and for years to come,” Rogers added. “He has all the physical capabilities to be in the Olympics, potentially, in 2016, but definitely in 2020 and, if he stays healthy, 2024.”

Rogers says Brunner brings “youth and fantastic blocking” to the court.

The 29-year-old Brunner is coming off his best season as a pro. He and Nick Lucena were the No. 2-ranked team on the AVP Tour in 2013, and Brunner was the tour’s top blocker, averaging 2.2 blocks per game. Brunner and Lucena reached five semifinals, won the season’s final tournament in Huntington Beach and posted two runner-up finishes.

Theo Brunner - Beach Volleyball

UC Santa Barbara alum Theo Brunner will play with Todd Rogers this season.

Brunner told his hometown newspaper, the Ridgefield Press, that last season has made him hungrier to do more on the sand.

“After getting my the first open win under my belt at the AVP Huntington Beach Open last season, I have a whole new set of goals I want to accomplish,” he said. “Winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games and getting my name inscribed on the Manhattan Beach Pier are among the top goals I want to achieve.”

Rogers and Brunner played together in a FIVB World Tour event last season, taking 17th in Xiamen, China.

They plan to go “full bore this year” on the FIVB circuit.

“My goal is to get him some FIVB points as he has very few, and if we do really well, we will end up in the main draw of the FIVB tourneys sometime middle to the end of the season. If we don’t, then he will still have more points than he currently does now.”

Rogers is one of the greatest players in beach volleyball history. He’s won 52 AVP tourney titles, 78 overall championships and earned more than $2 million in prize money. He and Phil Dalhausser won an Olympics gold medal, a FIVB world championship, 24 international tournament titles and set several records on the FIVB World Tour.

Last season, Rogers played with 7-foot Ryan Doherty, a relative newcomer to the pro game. Their best finish on the international tour was a ninth, and they took a second in an AVP tournament.

Doherty is playing with Brunner’s former partner, Lucena, this season.

Rogers and Brunner have already played in a couple of USA Volleyball events, taking thirds in a zonal qualifier (losing to Will Montgomery and Stafford Slick) and a FIVB Grand Slam country quota qualifier (falling to John Hyden and Tri Bourne).

“Our first true tournament will either be a NORCECA event in the Cayman Islands or a FIVB event in Fuzhou, China during the week of April 21-27,” Rogers said.

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