This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The flames on the grill did their job, the other adults chatted, while the kids probably rocked cannonballs into the pool, but when Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson finally found time to sit down in the Huntington Beach backyard, the first topic broached that day in 2013 was the 2016 Olympics.
Gibb, a two-time Olympic beach volleyball star from Bountiful, was recently dumped by longtime partner Sean Rosenthal. The pair had finished fifth overall in the previous two Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and again in London in 2012. At the time, they were the No. 1-ranked team on the world. Patterson, once a BYU indoor volleyball player from Southern California, was in the same boat. His former partner Ryan Doherty joined forces with Todd Rogers, leaving Patterson solo.
There they were: A Utah grad (Gibb) and a former Cougar (Patterson) stuck in limbo at a family barbecue in the backyard of close friend Tyler Hildebrand, who would eventually become their coach. Gibb pressed Patterson. Then he told him of his goals, that a medal in Rio de Janerio was a must.
The boisterous, blonde 6-foot-6 man, who earned the nickname "Mr. Boom" from his professional days in Puerto Rico, didn't hesitate.
"I'm on board to do whatever it takes to get to the Olympics," he told Gibb.
Gibb, with the previous two-fifth place finishes still eating away at him, found his guy. He told Patterson that he had unfinished business, and that he was to be the partner to help him get to Rio. Patterson still laughs telling the story.
"It couldn't have been a cooler barbecue," he said.
Dropped by Rosenthal, Gibb had his pick of anyone. Patterson was one of three finalists. Gibb consulted with close friends in the sport as well as his wife. It was all on him. He wasn't pressed by USA Volleyball to lean one way or another. So he chose Patterson, the former Cougar opposite-side hitter.
"That was the toughest part," Gibb jokes. "There were a ton of pros and then cons? He's a BYU alum."
Mr. Boom and Mr. Cool
Once named the MVP of the Puerto Rican indoor volleyball league, Patterson's habit of screaming "boom!" every time he smacked the ball took off. Fans made T-shirts and started hash-tagging it phrase on social media. When describing himself and his style of play, the former BYU player said he's a mixture of "a burst of energy and excitement."
Gibb? He is, for the most part, the calmer, more focused one. But the duo did its best to adapt to one another's attributes in the sand. And it worked. Patterson's more reined in and Gibb shows a pinch more emotion.
A few months into their tenure together, they won a gold and silver and two Grand Slams on the AVP World Tour. Patterson, predominately a right-sided player in his earlier beach days, seamlessly switched to the left.
From August 2014 to August 2015, the pair won 27 straight AVP matches. At the 2015 FIVB St. Petersburg Grand Slam, they won gold. The transition process was brief. The tandem that had never once played together, not even setting a ball for the other to destroy into the sand, was rolling along. They continued their impressive run into the crunch-time of qualifying, before the reality of Rio became more in focus.
"It's gnarly that's the only word that comes to mind," Gibb said. "It's high pressure for a year-and-a-half. Everyone wants it and it's kind of this awkward energy when you're competing against the other Americans."
Patterson, whose previous best World Tour finish before joining forces with Gibb was ninth, said once they started off 2013 in the manner that they did, he knew Rio was a possibility. They went from never playing together to being named the 2013 USA Volleyball Beach Team of the Year. Ironically, they topped some of Brazil's very best that first year, too.
It was foreshadowing the inevitable.
Pulling for a podium
Once they were officially in points-wise, Gibb and Patterson were at a USA Volleyball team dinner in Russia. Their inclusion wasn't announced as official, but the Americans were going. They were going to get to vie for an Olympic medal on the Copacabana Beach, in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain.
When Gibb started talking about what to expect, Patterson's eyes welled up. During the qualification process, they went dark. On social media, they stayed quiet. When the notion of Rio was brought up, they changed the subject. The two looked on as other American teams posted their aspirations of the next Games, flaunting hashtags like "RoadToRio" whenever possible. But they needed to make it first, before being able to hit send on anything online notifying the world.
"It was finally something we were talking about as a team," Patterson said. "To finally be able to listen, to absorb and be excited about it was an amazing feeling."
On June 12, USA Volleyball announced their names along with three other American pairs. Gibb and Patterson enter Rio sixth in the Olympic rankings. It's all new for Patterson, who says he's still soaking in the actuality of his Olympic inclusion. For Gibb, it's simply another shot.
The two fifth-place finishes serve as a reminder of how close he got, but also how far he and his new partner have to go to one-better those results from Beijing and London. Gibb admits it was hard on his desire for another Olympic Games four years ago.
"It's hard to re-motivate and risk again," he said. "It's hard to put yourself out there again. That was hard, but then what ultimately determines it is, if I feel like I have a real chance at medaling at an Olympics, I want to go. I don't want to sneak in just to be an Olympian. That wasn't interesting to me."
The Ute and Cougar didn't sneak in. They're a known matching commodity.
"Hybrids," Patterson said.
Meet Jake Gibb
Age » 40
Sport » Beach volleyball
Hometown » Bountiful
High school » Bountiful High School
College » Utah
Residence » Huntington Beach, Calif.
Volleyball career » Two-time Olympian, finishing fifth overall in 2008 Beijing Games and again in 2012 London Games. Started playing volleyball when he was 21. Gibb and Patterson were named USA Volleyball's Beach Team of the Year in 2013 and AVP's 2014 Men's Team of the Year. Won 2015 St. Petersburg Grand Slam with Patterson and was named tournament's MVP.
Meet Casey Patterson
Age » 36
Sport » Beach volleyball
Hometown » Van Nuys, Calif.
College » BYU
Residence » Huntington Beach, Calif.
Volleyball career » Former BYU indoor volleyball star was part of the 2004 National Championship squad. Joined forces with Gibb in 2013. The team qualified sixth worldwide for the Rio Games. At 2015 Beach World Championships, the duo finished fifth and was eliminated by Brazil.
Beach volleyball in Rio
Dates • Saturday, Aug. 6 through Thursday, Aug. 18