A duo of Cal Poly students will compete in the 2019 Spikeball College Roundnet Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia from April 12-14. Civil engineering sophomore Sam Buckman and architectural engineering junior Jacob Payer are not only Spikeball aficionados, but are the No. 1 ranked collegiate Spikeball team in the nation.
The tournament is a two-day event, beginning with pool play before advancing to a single-elimination bracket.
Despite their chemistry around the net, Payer and Buckman have only known each other a few years. The team met at a tournament in San Francisco before they started at Cal Poly.
“I honestly thought he was pretty bad because he didn’t have a partner,” Buckman said.
However, after speaking with Payer and realizing they were both Cal Poly bound, the duo became fast friends.
“Then we came here and started playing together and we just found that it was a really good fit, that our play styles match really well and we took it really seriously. We lost our first tournament together — we got third. Since then, though, we’ve been perfect.” Buckman said.
Spikeball, officially known as the game of “round net,” is a game that was inspired mainly by volleyball concepts when it was created in 1989. Although it is most commonly played with 4 players, 2 on each team, the game has many different variations of team numbers and rules. Buckman and Payer play as a duo, and feel that their differing personalities and skill sets are the key factors in their Spikeball success.
“[Payer’s] best skill is definitely serving,” Buckman said. “It’s a super strong right-handed hit so I can just set him anywhere and he’ll just clobber it.”
“Sometimes I’ll be hot at a certain part of the game where I’m getting a lot of serves on or something like that, but I can always rely on [Buckman] for just being consistent with hitting and setting,” Payer said.
Buckman and Payer have managed to climb the ranks as a nationally ranked duo and start a Spikeball club on Cal Poly’s campus. The club welcomes players with a wide range of experience, and are centered around making friendships through the game and having fun.
“I think the club is going to keep growing,” Buckman said. “We’ve seen so much improvement with players who have been coming out in the past year — it’s just been great to be a part of that, just giving them a community and watching them grow.”
Payer described the places they have traveled for the sport, and all of the friends and experiences they have made along the way.
“We both played a tournament in Boston and then my best friends and I ended up ditching our flights home and flew to Chicago just on a whim,” Payer said. “We ended up just going there and hanging out with other people form the Spikeball community and then playing another tournament the following weekend.”
Although they are the highest ranked college team, Buckman and Payer still take the game lightly — they say their competitiveness is all in good spirits and any time spent with fellow Spikeball players fills them with joy.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it right now and that’s what we’re all about, just having fun and making friends.” Buckman said.
Buckman and Payer’s Spikeball Club practices 2-3 times a week and welcomes players from all skill levels.
“As for our club, I think it’s gonna continue to grow because we’ve seen so many people getting better and better,” Buckman said. “It’s been a great experience for them and us as well. We love teaching people how to play and teaching them little skills and tips to get them better. Right now Spikeball’s really fun for us and that’s what we’re all about.”