JUNE 29, 2022, POTTSTOWN, PA - There was a moment, a roughly 30-second moment, between Nolan Albrecht’s high-angle kill off the hands of Nate Miller at 13-11 and Tomas Goldsmith’s next serve. It was an innocuous one, 30 seconds that few would likely ever put a second thought into, save for one person: Nolan Albrecht.
While nothing extraordinary had happened on the play before – it was, in fact, so par for the course that hardly anyone in the crowd, several hundred strong, even bothered applauding – the score, 13-11, was a significant one for Albrecht. He had been here before, exactly a year ago, almost down to the minute. He and Marc Fornaciari had led Eric Lucas and Andrei Belov in the finals of the 2021 Pottstown finals, 13-11. They were two points away from what amounts to grass volleyball immortality.
“To be up 13-11 on the same side in the same game, roughly the same time at night, and that thought came in my head that ‘Oh man, this is where I was last year,’” Albrecht said. “Instead of dismissing the thought, I said ‘I was here last year, but I’m a different player than I was. And I’ve dedicated a lot to this and I’m going to embrace this.’”
Call it cosmic fate or just a missile of a serve from Goldsmith, but in the immediate wake of embracing the odd parallel from a year ago, Albrecht received a gift: Goldsmith bombed a jump serve into the seam, forcing Miller to dive just to get an arm on it. But the pass sailed over the net, into the awaiting right arm of Albrecht, who rocketed it off either Ian Capp or Miller or both, it’s difficult to tell from the twilight livestream. In a single swing, the pattern was broken: Albrecht wasn’t giving up the 13-11 lead he did last year; he and Goldsmith were now up 14-11, one point away from winning the 2022 Pottstown Rumble.
“There isn’t a higher level or bigger grass tournament in the world that I know of,” Goldsmith said. “You look at the list of people who have won Pottstown before and it has quite a list of names on it.”
That list now includes the names of Nolan Albrecht and Tomas Goldsmith. Capp and Miller staved off one match point each, but on the third, Goldsmith sent another jump serve down the seam. There would be no overpass. There would be no pass at all, as the ball curved just out of the reach of Capp’s diving arms, a 15-11 final win sealed.
“It was definitely emotional,” Albrecht said. “Just overwhelmed with gratitude, I had to walk away and brush off a few tears.”
Neither Albrecht nor Goldsmith are strangers to winning major grass events. Two months ago, alongside Schylar Lillethorup, they won The Clash, the season-opening event on the AVP Grass Tour. Six months before that, Albrecht finished off the 2021 season with a victory at Grass Nationals. But Pottstown sits on a tier of its own.
“I knew it was a big deal. I knew it was a lot of money, but I hadn’t invested a ton into learning about it,” Goldsmith said. “When we actually won, it was an incredible feeling. I’ve actually never felt quite like that after winning a tournament. I felt like a little kid. I didn’t know what to do.”
It’s earned, that childlike feeling. Albrecht and Goldsmith played 13 sets of old school scoring in two days. Not that anyone came particularly close: There wasn’t a single match that was decided by two points. Kam Beans and David Evans provided the closest match, a 15-12 quarterfinal win. Capp and Miller were the only other team to manage double-digits.
Still: 13 sets of old school scoring, on a big court, in just two days, where the heat nudged above 90 degrees frequently, will leave anyone feeling empty afterwards, even if they finished on top.
“Halfway through the final, I looked up at the ref, and I said ‘I hate this tournament, but I love this tournament so much,’” Albrecht said. “It is a fun reunion of all the same ballers, and it’s terrible, it’s so bad, but it’s so fun, because at the end of it, you’re depleted, you’re done.”
In the immediate moments following their win, Albrecht was interviewed by a reporter for a local newspaper.
How, he was asked, did he feel?
“Dude, I am hurting. I’m tired, and I feel awesome,” Albrecht responded then.
“And that’s still how I feel,” he added, laughing. “Same as I did right after the game. It was good to be able to outlast the elements as well as get that final win.”
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew