Eight tournaments and five different champions for both the women and the men on the 2019 AVP Tour.
Some were expected, but the surprises that popped up along the way were refreshing.
Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb, who won three events in 2018, outdid themselves by winning four in 2019. They won the first two titles in Huntington Beach and Austin, and the last two at the Championships and Hawaii Open.
After Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena captured their 11th AVP title as a team at the Gold Series in New York City, the tour became historical.
First things first
Following the event in New York, the next three events produced five players who claimed their first-ever AVP titles. It started with Chaim Schalk and Jeremy Casebeer in Seattle. Then Chase Budinger, in his second year on the tour picked up his first title in Hermosa Beach.
In the most unlikely finish – as in one that still has people scratching their heads– Trevor Crabb teamed with Reid Priddy where they both won their first AVP title with a win at the Gold Series, Manhattan Beach Open. That came two weeks after Trevor lost his long-time partner Tri Bourne to a broken hand. And to think Crabb and Priddy really didn’t like each other for years on the tour…
“We’re both real competitive, we’ve got that grit, so we don’t need that whole team chemistry yet,” Trevor said. “Reid stepped up, a pretty solid sub right there, and to win our first tournament for both is pretty awesome.”
They went 7-1 in three days. Not bad for a first-time partnership.
Getting to know you (very well)
The best rivalry on the planet started in Huntington Beach in the first event of the season. April Ross and Alix Klineman, the dominant team on the AVP Tour and at one point the top-ranked team in the world, got their first shot at Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in the Final.
Little did we know it would be the first of seven meetings between the two world powers in 2019 on the AVP Tour.
Ross and Klineman won four of the meetings, which helped them secure the championship hardware in Huntington Beach, New York City, and Chicago.
But Sarah and Mel, as they are known, beat the Americans in the FIVB World Championship Final and also in a three-set thriller in at our Manhattan Beach Open. The teams closed the season with another match-up where the Canadians defeated the Americans in the Hawaii Open Final.
“This is the best way we could finish,” Melissa said. “We’re so happy we could do it here in Hawaii, one of our favorite places. Thank you all for cheering, whether you were cheering for us or against us, thank you!”
“We always know it’s going to be a battle, we always know it’s going to go right down to the wire,” Pavan said. “We love the intensity, and we love competing against the best teams in the world, so we are very lucky that we get to compete against them.”
The MBO victory was the first AVP title for Sarah and Mel. The all-time series (AVP and FIVB) between these two rival teams now stands at 5-5. Game on.
In Austin, Jace Pardon and Karissa Cook—in a recurring theme, another new partnership—might have surprised even themselves by capturing the championship through five crucial wins they earned after being bumped into the Contenders Bracket. In the Semifinals, they avenged their earlier loss to Terese Cannon and Irene Pollock.
Then, in Seattle, Olympic hopefuls Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman scored their first AVP win as a team and a first career victory for Stockman.
Although these two aren’t strangers to winning championships, 2019 wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Betsi Flint and Emily Day and their championship at the Hermosa Beach Open. Although this title was the only one of the season for this duo, the team consistently reached Championship Sunday and played some of the best, consistent volleyball on tour.
He’s won this award before on the international level, but 46-year-old John Hyden had a tough year with three different partners.
But in a run for the ages (aged?), Hyden and Theo Brunner made a spectacular run through the Contenders Bracket to reach the Hawaii Open Final. However, in the Finals, what looked like a clear championship win for Hyden/Brunner, the freeze rule crept in and gave the fans one of the most exciting matches of all-time. Taylor and Jake scored a three-set victory in 1 hour 18 minutes, winning 17-15 in the third.
Along the way, Hyden and Brunner eliminated Dalhausser and Lucena, part of a string of three victories against 2019 AVP champs.
The last thing a veteran like Hyden needs is a three-set match, but in his 30 matches in 2019, 17 went the distance.
Where they stand in the world
At the moment, four American women’s teams rank in the top seven in the Provisional Olympic rankings. All a team has to do is finish in the top 15 to qualify, but the catch is only two teams per country are allowed to qualify for the big game.
Ross and Klineman stand at No. 2 with a healthy lead over Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh-Jennings. Chasing them are Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes at No. 6, with Larsen and Stockman a touch behind tied for the seventh spot.
On the men’s side, the race is a lot tighter between three teams. Even with his injury, Tri Bourne and Trevor are in the 11th spot with Jake and Taylor tied for 12th. Dalhausser and Lucena, Olympians together in 2016, are tied for No. 15. The three teams are separated by only 600 points.
The final spots for the Tokyo 2020 Games will be determined in mid-June.
Exhilarating Quotes of the Year
Pardon and Cook get the simultaneous award after winning in Austin: “We’re going to Hawaii!”
The men’s version comes from Priddy after his Manhattan victory: “It’s surreal. It all happened so fast.” For us too, Reid. For us too.