Benjamin Patch and his US teammates celebrate a VNL victory
Plovdiv, Bulgaria, June 30, 2019 – If someone is dancing on the court between rallies in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and it’s not a cheerleader, then it’s probably Benjamin Patch. If a single player really fits well with the cool vibe of the VNL, it would probably be Ben Patch. And the permanent smile on his face in no way means he is in it only for the fun. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. “We’re here to win gold!” he told fivb.com and he means it.
To back up his team’s ambitions, the 25-year-old opposite of the US squad has turned every chance to be on the court to lots of points. He has 130 to his name in the 2019 VNL so far, the highest among all of his teammates. He is also second in the tournament’s best attackers ranking on an impressive 56.94% success rate in spiking. In his last appearance in play, against hosts Bulgaria in Plovdiv on Friday, Ben Patch hammered out 22 points and topped the charts despite the four-set defeat his team suffered.
Ben Patch spikes in USA’s VNL win over France
“There have been ups and there have been downs,” Patch said humbly after that game when he was asked to comment on his individual performance in the VNL so far. “My goal is just to be more consistent every year, game after game, hit at a high percentage and do what I can do more regularly, and not have so many lows, which sometimes I’ve had in the past. I am still working on serving. It’s always a challenge for me for some reason, but I am just learning and growing, trying my best...”
Having gone through one of the best collegiate programmes in US volleyball, the BYU Cougars, the 203-cm-tall athlete started playing professionally in Europe in 2017. In 2018, he earned two bronze medals with the national team – at the VNL and at the World Championship.
“Our goal has been to be on the podium every single time, at every tournament. We switched our goal and now our goal is to win gold at every single tournament. We are training harder and we are working harder in the gym, because we know it’s going to take more than what we’ve been doing,” Patch pointed out.
With so much variation in the squad from one week to the next, does coach John Speraw run the risk of not achieving enough cohesiveness within a core of main players ahead of hosting the Final Six in Chicago? Ben Patch doesn’t think so.
“Our starting players are back at home right now, training and getting really good. And then you have us, a couple of guys who rotate in the starting line-up, who are here still competing. So heading into the Final Six both groups are ready to go, and I think it’s a really smart decision,” he commented. “The cool thing is we really like each other and our energy is really good together, so regardless of starters or non-starters, we all work together really well and we trust each other when the time comes to be on the court, so that we will perform at our best. In the long run this is really good for us as I think it builds a lot of trust. Every week we’re trying to work in new guys. That can hedge for a little bit of a challenge, but it is good to give them game-time experience in battle, because the only way you can really grow is in a game.”
Patch is really looking forward to the July 10-14 finals, which the United States will host in Chicago.
“Being in your home country always adds really fun energy. You see now here, in Plovdiv, the Bulgarian players play even better than they normally do. When you’re playing for your country and for your national pride, and the people off the court are giving that energy to the team, it only helps,” said Patch. “In downtown Chicago we will have a lot of spectators. I think almost all games are sold out, which is really amazing. We will be in the big city and that obviously adds different energy from what we had in Hoffman Estates last week. It’ll be good.”
Ben Patch takes a selfie with the fans in Hoffman Estates
“Ooh, that’s tough!” was Ben Patch’s first reaction to the request to name his dream teammates. “Sergey Grankin from Russia is the setter. I love him! As middle blockers I would probably choose Lucas Saatkamp from Brazil – he’s a really good blocker – and Taylor Averill, cause I love him and he is fast. Outside hitters – Taylor Sander, who is all-around amazing – good passer, good spiker, good ball control, good serving... - and Wilfredo Leon. I think it makes sense why Leon. Libero – Eric Shoji, because he is so fun to play with, adds good energy and he’s the best passing libero in the world.”