In the first three tournaments of the season, how does a team explain a 17th-place finish to open things up, a 2nd-place to follow, and another 17th to round it out? Simple inconsistency? Or is the competition as stiff as Popov on ice?
What's a team to do? It's not like 17th-place pays out a dime more than $2,800 after bonus pool. Not exactly the type of funds the world's best can retire on. And keep in mind, these are the world's BEST. We're not talking about athletes with side jobs.
In other words, simple inconsistency simply isn't allowed, and teams like Gibb and Rosenthal need to bring their absolute finest every week to avoid a paycheck bank cashiers will pick up and mock. And how do they accomplish this?
"By playing steady volleyball," Gibb states while tilting his hat and readjusting his legs, almost uneasily. "As cliche as it sounds, we just need to focus point to point and game to game."
In Shanghai, that focus was evident in his team's first podium finish since May 2009. But where was it last week in Prague? It was there too, they just happened to run into a draw that defies logic and failed to escape unscathed.
In the second round, Gibb and Rosenthal battled Brazilian young'ins Pedro Salgado and Pedro Cunha and lost 16-18 in the 3rd set. And as fate would have it in the loser's bracket, they lined up with Xu Linyin and Wu Penggen after the sixth-seeded Chinese duo was upset in the first round. Needless to say, it didn't go well for Gibb and Rosenthal (18-21, 19-21), and their time at Stvanice Stadium ended abruptly.
Is there such a thing as a "good" loss? Not in Gibb's mind. He isn't playing international beach volleyball for the chance to compete in the main draw; he's playing for championships, and that means being physically and mentally capable of defeating every team in the draw. Regardless of what round the match-up occurs.
In Shanghai, the match-up they've looked forward to all year took place in the finals against World No. 1 Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers. And after losing a close first set, Gibb had a sideout swing for the second at 20-19 before things unraveled.
"I thought I saw Phil in the angle and decided last second to go three-quarters into the cut, but it caught the top of the net," Gibb said.
The next point saw the ball come back on his side of the net following a Dalhausser block, and six points later it was over, 22-24.
So, how do they get back to where they need to be? "By staying consistent," Gibb overstates, adding, "and being aggressive. I need to be more aggressive."
And this is when Gibb looks to the patio floor and finally opens up, "I need to play better."
"The last two years weren't a coincidence. We didn't reach the podium for a reason and that reason was me," Gibb says. "Coach [Jeff Alzina] pulled me aside and said I was holding back the team. I just wasn't siding out. I was in a slump. And until I got out of it, we weren't going to be the team we should be. It was all on me."
With two victories over 2009 world champs Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann of Germany in Shanghai -- which included some absurd set scores (21-9 and 21-11) -- the world has seen what happens when Gibb is focused and sides out like he's capable of.
Now the question remains, is the World Tour just too deep for it to matter? Only time will to tell, but Gibb is prepared to steady his game and find out.