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What’s up, Internet?  It is your favorite volleyball player/underwear model/freelance writer Ryan Doherty. (AKA Avatar, AKA White Chocolate, AKA Tater Salad) The AVP realized that there was no point in updating their website unless I was going to be producing original content for them, so after much begging, (and a flattering but frankly inappropriate proposition from AVP Tournament Director Jeff Conover) I have decided to do a weekly submission for www.avp.com called “Tuesdays with Avatar”.  It will be posted every Friday (wait…they will probably be posting it on Tuesday) and will run for roughly “however long I feel like doing this”.

I’ve decided to start by talking with different teams on the AVP tour about themselves.  When I first found the sport of beach volleyball, I loved watching all the interviews and trying to get an understanding of what the different players were like.  So I am going to do my best to give a little insight to the new generation of fans by asking ridiculous questions to the current group of professional beach volleyball players.  And I have to say, I couldn’t be happier with the first team that I have the chance to interview.  I have been a fan of one of these players for such a long time and think that he has so much potential in this game.  And with his new partner for the 2014 season, I really feel like this could be one of the teams that people really find themselves rooting for.  I am talking, of course, about Ryan Doherty and Nick Lucena.

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Avatar: Thank you guys so much for agreeing to talk with me.  Especially you, Ryan.  Big fan of your game.

Ryan Doherty: Are you kidding?  It’s my pleasure.  I’ve been reading your blog, www.ryan-doherty.com, religiously since you first started it. In my opinion, it is one of the best blogs out there.

Avatar: Really?  That’s so nice of you to say.  Sometimes I worry that it comes off as a little arrogant and self-serving, as if I am just having a conversation with myself about myself, you know?

RD: Of course it does, but that is what makes it so funny.  I think your readers are smart enough to get the joke.

Nick Lucena: How much longer is this going to take?

Avatar:  Settle down, Lucena.  I’ll get to you in a second.

RD: I apologize for the rudeness of my partner.  He’s not big into social media.

Avatar: That’s quite alright.  So Nick, you have been one of the best defenders in beach volleyball for a while now.  What drew you to your new partner?  Was it his looks or more his personality?

NL: Thanks for the compliment, bud. There are a couple qualities in Ryan I saw that I believed I could use to make him one of the best big guys out there. You don’t see too many athletic 7-footers not playing in the NBA. So I thought with his size, he has the ability to make attackers uncomfortable and become a big time point scorer. I also saw, during our last off-season, that he was willing to put in the time to get better in the gym, so I thought with a ton of touches he could really take his game to the next level. But for sure it was his personality.

Avatar: Excuse me, you will have to give me a moment.  I have something in my eye. (Tear, tear, sniffle) Ryan, what are some things you hope for in 2014?

RD: Well, 2013 was a pretty tough year for me.  I got the chance to play with Todd Rogers, one of the best players in the history of U.S. beach volleyball.  But I just wasn’t skilled or experienced enough to consistently compete with the best in the world, and we lost a lot of matches because of it.  So I ended the year pretty frustrated and disheartened, and I hope that this year is a chance for me to get some of that spark and confidence back.

Avatar: Nick, as successful as you have been on the volleyball court, you have never had any major sponsors.  What do you think is the reason for your lack of endorsements?

NL: Not too many players on tour have big money sponsors, only really the top 1%. I thought my best years were when Fuerby (Matt Fuerbringer, now Assistant Coach to the U.S. Men’s Indoor Team) and I played together and unfortunately the AVP had gone bankrupt so finding sponsors without a strong domestic tour was very difficult. Now that the AVP is back, I’m ready for Ryan to carry me to some championships so I can start making some money. Then I could live out Uncle Rico’s dream, maybe get a big ol’ mansion, soaking it up in a hot tub with my soul mate.

Avatar: Personally, I think it’s your face. Nick, you and fellow beach volleyball star Brooke Niles recently had your first child, Gunnar Lucena.  How has life changed now that you are a father?

NL: Having Brooke and Gunnar in my life has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. As for being a father, I’m learning as I go. So far I have learned to do whatever Brooke tells me to do; She’s the boss and we both know it. But it has been life changing. It’s not about me anymore, it’s all about Gunnar and Brooke, and I actually like it that way.

Avatar: Well, he is one of the most adorable and smiley little guys I have ever seen.  Ryan, tell us one thing about Nick Lucena that most fans wouldn’t guess.

RD: I think most people would be shocked at how easy-going and personable Nick is off the court.  When he plays, he’s incredibly intense and can come off like a bit of a lunatic.  But that is just how he plays, and he’s really laid back and charismatic in the rest of his life.  Also, he makes a throat-clearing noise that sounds like a toad’s mating call.

Avatar: Maybe that is just him being charismatic to toads as well?  Nick, same question; what is something people wouldn’t guess about Ryan?

NL: One thing fans wouldn’t guess about Ryan is that, although he looks like someone who would just be on Tinder all day, he is really just looking for love. He’s a big teddy bear that is ready for some lucky girl to sweep him off his feet.

RD: You’re saying I WON’T find love on a “Hot or Not” app?

Avatar: You guys have Scott Davenport, himself a ten year veteran of the AVP and FIVB tours, as your head coach.  Nick, why has “Davy” (pronounced DA-vee) been your coach for so long?

NL: Because I can’t get rid of him.

Avatar: Ryan, what has been your impression in working with Davy for the past few months?

RD:  It was obvious from the beginning that he is a very smart guy that knows the game well.  It took a little while for him to understand how I learn and for us to “talk the same language”, but I feel like I have learned a ton from him in a relatively short period of time.   I’m really excited to have him in my corner this year.

Avatar: Nick, do you have a favorite memory from your time on the AVP tour?

NL: I have a bunch of great memories of the AVP, so it’s hard to pick just one.  But since I have to, I am going to go with Phil and I’s first win in Austin, Texas. Jake Gibb and Stein Metzger had won the first two events of the season and were clearly the number one team on tour. We somehow made it to the finals and ended up beating Jake and Stein in overtime in the third. Phil won’t admit it, but I carried him in that final.

Avatar: Nick, last question…your nickname is “The Greyhound”.  What prompted your fellow volleyball players to refer to you as a bus?  Do you not own a car or something?

NL: Chris McGee, aka “Geeter”, came up with the name for me. Everyone assumed he called me that because I was fast, but the real reason is because my dog (which happened to be a greyhound) and I came out to California on a Greyhound bus from Florida with nothing but a bottle of vodka and some grapefruit juice to our names. The name has stuck ever since.

Avatar: And that concludes my first “Tuesdays with Avatar” post, with Nick Lucena talking about his alcoholic dog. (Or was the dog just drinking the grapefruit juice?) I would like to thank one of my two guests, as it was a genuine pleasure to talk with you.  For anyone with questions or comments about this write-up, please e-mail someone else because I don’t delete old e-mails frequently enough and have about 200 in my inbox right now.  And if you would like to make a recommendation about the next team you would like me to interview, please feel free to do so. (It won’t change who I write about, but at least it will feel like you are a part of the process)

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