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WOONSOCKET â”€ Brett and Dan Gould did a lot of hanging around at the beach this summer â”€ and at the USA Volleyball Junior Beach Tour Championships, they hung around almost long enough to be declared the best beach volleyball team for their age group in the country.
The 14-year-old twin brothers finished second overall in their age bracket at the national tournament â”€ organized by the U.S. Olympic program â”€ and held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin over the weekend of July 25-27.
The sons of Paul and Renee Gould of Woonsocket, Brett and Dan are a little on the small side for champion volleyball players, even for their age. They stand 5 feet tall â”€ or maybe 5-1 depending on which brother you ask. But whatever the Gould twins lack in stature, they make up for with poise and confidence.
Coached by their father, who is an assistant for the Mount St. Charles volleyball program, the Goulds earned their spot in the JBT championships with a first-place showing at the New England Open earlier in the summer. After having played together since the age of “4 or 5 years old,” the trip to Milwaukee was their first-ever test against competition from outside the region.
"It was new to them, this was their first national tournament,” said Paul Gould. “They were a little shell-shocked at first.”
Seeded 11th out of 13 teams in the tournament, and last in their pool, the twins got off to a slow start, dropping three of their first four games. But they came on strong in their third match, easily taking their final two games in pool play to finish 3-3 and qualify for the winner’s bracket.
On the second day of the tourney, the Goulds hit their stride. They took the first game from the tournament’s top-ranked team, and almost took the match, before falling 21-19 in the third game. In their second match, the brothers crushed their remaining pool competition, with three straight wins of 21-8, 21-3 and 21-9. In the second of those games, the brothers didn’t allow a point except by their own service errors.
Their showing up until that point qualified them for the three-round, gold medal division playoff on Sunday. After winning their initial match, the twins faced off in the tournament semi-final against the team ranked second overall â”€ a much taller, experienced duo who had been undefeated to that point in the event.
The Goulds beat them two games to one, edging them in the third game, 15-12.
“They just played some frustrating defense â”€ obviously they’re not that tall,” said Paul Gould. “They were just frustrating the hitters all game long.”
In the tournament final, the brothers’ run ended just short of their ultimate goal. They pushed the top seed, from Texas, to a third game, which the Goulds lost 15-12.
Not a bad showing for their first exposure on such a stage, certainly. That doesn’t mean they were just happy to be there, of course.
“We were happy when we got by the semi-finals because we knew that was a tough match,” said Dan Gould. “But we knew we could have done better in the finals.”
Despite their success, the brothers admitted the level of play was tougher than they’d imagined it could be.
“We were kind of scared when we first saw the teams,” said Dan Gould. “We didn’t know the competition was going to be as high as it was.”
“We got a wake-up call,” said Brett.
Despite that rude awakening, the duo was able to compensate by staying true to their father’s coaching philosophy, which both twins will readily recite in unison: “Better the ball.”
The phrase means that whatever happened on the last contact, the individual player’s job is just to improve the team’s situation. A tough serve can be improved into be a good pass, a bad hit can be saved to keep the ball alive. In just three simple words, it encompasses a wide range of valuable concepts that stress the importance of picking up your teammates, not letting up, and playing within yourself.
“If you make a bad pass,” said Dan, “focus on the next point. Don’t try to make everything perfect.”
The Goulds rely on their teamwork even more than most teams because they aren’t big enough to impose their will physically with spikes or blocks at the net. Their defense is what sets them apart â”€ they simply refuse to let the ball touch the sand.
“We don’t score many points from going up and hitting the ball,” said Dan with a sheepish grin. “We just keep rallies up and make the other team make mistakes.”
That same tenacity was possessed by their older sister, Carissa Gould, who was a two-time All-Stater with the Mounties and earned a volleyball scholarship with Bryant University, despite standing just 5-2.
“I knew I was never going to be a 5-foot-10, 6-foot hitter,” Carissa Gould told this newspaper when she signed her letter of intent back in 2012. “My height’s definitely been my motivation. I knew I would have to prove everyone wrong.”
For the twins, the most satisfying feeling they get on the court is “passing a hard-driven ball and then getting up and scoring â”€ making them frustrated that they can’t score,” said Brett.
Dan and Brett, who turned 14 years old the week after they returned from the tournament, also played on an indoor tournament team earlier in the summer. Playing with teammates from all over Rhode Island, the boys helped their team to an 11th-overall finish in a national event, and won their consolation bracket.
The Goulds will be attending Mount St. Charles as freshman this year, and Mountie volleyball coach Josh D’Abate says that he is looking forward to seeing them on the floor should they choose to play.
“Not many freshmen have seen more volleyball than them,” he said. “They know where everyone is supposed to be, and they do the right thing in every situation. They’re connected.”
D’Abate said that with their father having been a longtime coach, the boys are already well-known around the state.
“All the coaches know who they are â”€ they’ve all been waiting to see them play,” he said.
And D’Abate counts himself among that group.
“It’s going to be a fun four years.”
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