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Carambula’s unique weapon

Adrian Carambula (right) of Italy hits against Josh Binstock of Canada in an opening Rio Grand Slam pool play win Wednesday.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 9, 2016 - It’s one of the more unique weapons on the FIVB World Tour. Just about every player has at one point experimented with it, though the skyball serve is currently owned by Italy’s Adrian Carambula.

When he first became partners with Alex Ranghieri, it was time to show it off.

“I said, ‘OK, serve me, then come on this side of the court,’ ” Ranghieri explained.

“That was NOT the first skyball,” Carambula interjected.

“Shut up,” Ranghieri retorted.

“The first skyball I served to him,” Carambula said, continuing undaunted, “he bent over and the ball landed in front of him.”

Ranghieri tried to interrupt, only to hear “Hey, get away, please.”

Wait, these guys are partners? They’re one of the hottest teams on the FIVB World Tour, but sometimes you wonder if they’re going to survive each other as they make their run at reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Ranghieri presses on.

“He skyballs and I push the pass toward the net so he’s coming from the other side of the court to my side,” Ranghieri said. “And he set me up perfect like a fastball and I crushed one.”

Well, that works if you don’t have any practice partners.

Believe it or not, the pair is perfect for each other and they realized it from the time they first met in Long Beach, Calif., in 2013. They finally settled on the partnership early in the 2015 season and realized they were ready to do some damage.

With the left-handed Carambula skying his serves and the 6-foot-6 Ranghieri patrolling the net, they’ve discovered a formula that can befuddle, frustrate and ultimately defeat unsuspecting opponents.

Bronze medal winners Alex Ranghieri (left) and Adrian Carambula of Italy pose at the SWATCH Beach Volleyball Major Series in Porec, Croatia in June 2015.

Their breakthrough came at Porec, Croatia last June when they came through the qualifier bracket to reach the semifinals and pick up a bronze medal. They came through with their first FIVB win Antalya, Turkey in October.

Carambula picked up FIVB Rookie of the Year honors. It’s not enough.

“Deep inside I think we both feel how special it was,” Carambula said. “On a personal level, I’m more of one who once I get somewhere, I always think there’s somewhere else I need to go. I never get content or happy or comfortable in a situation.

“Let’s say we qualify for the Olympics. OK, now I want to win it. I don’t get overly excited about anything I do because there’s somewhere else I want to go right after.”

Ranghieri, seemed to take a little more joy in the moment.

“That was like putting a mark on the decision we made the year before (to play together),” he said. “That was a lot of meaning.”

They opened main draw play Wednesday in the $800,000 Rio Grand Slam and scored an easy pool-play victory with two more matches Thursday on the scorching Copacabana Beach sand.

Their physical weapons are impressive, but their real secret is a unique chemistry that can be fascinating to watch. Carambula is a rather unorthodox player --- don’t they say that about all left-handers? --- but that is part of what attracted him to Ranghieri.

“I like the chemistry and about his game, he’s not a common player,” Ranghieri said. “What he has developed is this different game that he plays. He’s not super tall, he’s really effective and this is what I liked. And his mindset, I think we have the same --- when he’s not pushing me, I push him, so it works.”

The pushing is constant. Like when they try to explain how exactly they became partners.

“He called me, then he followed me on Instagram, he created a hashtag before we even started playing, then he messaged me on Facebook,” Carambula said. “It was like a marriage proposal and I accepted. It was an easy thing for me because you can see what he can do on the court.”

“I need to stop him,” Ranghieri said, “because this is not reality. He is in a dream right now.”

Moments later, Carambula pointed out that “I’ve been calling him for about three years before I made my decision.”

“So, he was the follower, not me,” Ranghieri said, laughing last. This time.


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