After three days of fiery action on the shores of Waikiki, it’s safe to say that no one will forget what unfolded at the final tournament of AVP’s 2019 season.
Hawaiian-born athletes like the McKibbin brothers, Trevor and Taylor Crabb, and Tri Bourne returned with high hopes to finish off their season with a big hometown win. However, the standout teams from the 2019 AVP season were also on hand to make that goal as difficult as possible (Casey and Chase, Casebeer and Chaim, the A-Team, Em Day and Betsi Flint, and Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes come to mind).
And anyone who tuned in surely didn’t miss the new AVP Optx Volleyball by Wilson that made its debut at this tour stop. For more information on the two year development process, check out this profile on the newest ball that you’ll be able to get in your bag come January.
Top Seeds Keep the Wins Coming
As the tourney got rolling, the top seeds were holding strong on the women’s side. By the end of Friday’s action, April Ross and Alix Klineman looked dominant, claiming victories over #16 Hartong/Urango— coming out of the Qualifiers— and #8 Kelly Reeves/Terese Cannon (but not before Cannon delivered a powerful facial to Klineman that sent her visor and sunglasses flying). #2 seeded Emily Day and Betsi Flint also counted big wins over #15 Traci Callahan/Carly Wopat and #10 Kimberly Hildreth/Sarah Schermerhorn. That set EmDay and Betsi up to take on the Canadian-American #3 team, Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan. Anyone who’s been following the international circuit knows that this duo is incredibly powerful and is always a challenge to overcome. Although Betsi delivered the aces she is famous for and Day backed her up with kill after kill, Pavan controlled the net with huge blocks. Ultimately, Humana-Paredes/Pavan dominated throughout, moving ahead toward the Semis. However, Day/Flint stayed in the tournament with a crucial victory over #11 Dowdy/Quiggle.
Rising stars #13 Crissy Jones and Zana Muno were in Waikiki as well, aiming for their first victory, but were taken down by Hildreth and Schermerhorn. #5 Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, who have been performing at an incredible level all season, took out #7 Sarah Hughes and Allie Wheeler (playing together for the first time) before placing seventh overall. Sarah, of course, had to adapt late in the season after Summer Ross sustained a back injury that has kept her sidelined. Finally, although #4 Sponcil/Claes suffered a loss to the A-Team on Saturday, they made it into the Semis with a win over #6 Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon.
The Boys of Summer
The men’s side was slightly less predictable, but still saw many victories for the pillar teams of the league. #2 Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb notched a win over young phenom #15 Miles Partain and his partner Lev Priima, and another against the towering #7 Ryan Doherty and Miles Evans. #8 Trevor Crabb and his fellow Hawaiian-born partner and brand new father, Tri Bourne, didn’t fare as well against #9 Stafford Slick and Billy Allen, but managed to make it into Saturday after besting #16 Steven Irvin and John Schwengel. You may remember that Tri sustained a hand injury at the FIVB tournament in Vienna, so we were thrilled to get him back on the beach in time for the last tournament of the season! The other Hawaiians, #11 Maddison and Riley McKibbin struggled to close out their two Friday matches after strong starts, and ultimately fell to #14 Eric Beranek and Billy Kolinske.
After playing strong matches on Friday, #3 Patterson/Budinger, #4 Casebeer/Schalk, #5 Bomgren/Field, and #1 Lucena/Dalhausser all secured their spots on Saturday. However, the ‘Greyhound’ and the ‘Thin Beast’ were handed their first loss on Day 2 by Casebeer/Schalk. The biggest news of the weekend was #12 Theo Brunner and John Hyden putting on incredible displays of strength and endurance from the very beginning (although they lost on Friday against #5 seeded Team TNT, AKA Troy Field and Tim Bomgren, in a barnburner of a match). Hyden, of course, is an AVP veteran who has shown what he is capable of time and time again. However, the pair has not been able to reach that potential yet this season. In Waikiki, all of that changed. Phil and Nick went head-to-head with Hyden and Brunner in their second chance to reach the Semis, but despite Phil hitting his first-ever sky ball in AVP competition, the match went to the #12 seed.
Battle of the Blockers
All of this action set the foundation for a Championship Sunday that could not have been any more fierce (or humid). #2 Emily Day and Betsi Flint faced off against the A-Team with the LMU grads taking the first set 21-16. However, Alix and April got their footing in the second set, outscoring Em Day and Betsi 21-16 with deep digs and well-placed kills. The defending Hawaii winners took the third set on an out-of-bounds ball hit by Day/Flint during the freeze, leading the A-Team into the Finals.
The other women’s Semifinal was a matchup between #3 Humana-Paredes/Pavan and #4 Claes/Sponcil, both of which are teams who have been major players on the world stage this season (Mel and Sarah are the World Champions). Although they stayed relatively neck-and-neck for most of the match, a long rally in the second set resulted in a final kill from the Canadian-Americans, securing their spot in the Finals.
It’s safe to say that for many fans, this was the women’s final re-match to see. Those hopefuls were rewarded with a Finals matchup notching the 10th time that these two dominant teams have faced each other. Pavan and Klineman, both standing at 6’5, went block-for-block. The Boss delivered the strong, precise serves she’s known for, while Humana-Paredes notched back-to-back aces. A rally from the World Champions ended the first set 21-19. Towards the end of the second set, much of the action took place between Pavan and Klineman at the net. Indeed, a monster block from Sarah secured the Championship for her and Mel in their second AVP title (Final Score: 21-19, 21-17).
A Match to Remember
The men’s Semifinals started off with a fiery showdown between #2 Crabb/Gibb and #4 Casebeer/Schalk. The hometown crowd was cheering for the last Hawaii-connected athlete left standing, but Jeremy and Chaim seemed to tune it out, claiming the first set 21-17. Taylor seemed to put it in overdrive in the second set, consistently finding holes to hammer in kills and taking the second set with Jake. In the third, Gibb protected the net with a clutch block for a match set point, and the Bug fell to the ground in visible relief.
The second Semis match was a face-off between #3 Olympian Casey Patterson/NBA veteran-turned AVP champion Chase Budinger and #12 seeded veteran John Hyden/Theo Brunner. The first set culminated in a long stalemate during the freeze, driving the score up to 25-23 that fell in Brunner/Hyden’s favor. In the second set, a net violation called on Brunner tied the score up with french fries on the board (11-11). Ultimately, Brunner/Hyden secured another set, putting them into the finals against Jake and Taylor.
That brings us to the last match of the day, an incredible men’s Finals game that probably left most fans coming away hoarse and in disbelief at what they witnessed on Stadium Court. Although the hometown crowd was louder than ever in voicing their support for Taylor and three-time Olympian Gibb, Hyden sent the ball down the line to capture the first set, 21-18. In Set 2, the teams tied early on, but Crabb delivered a big save and kill in what Broadcast Mark termed, the “Hammer of the Day.” They pulled ahead from a 15-20 deficit and after numerous Championship Point opportunities for Brunner/Hyden, Gibb took the win with a pivotal Monster Block, closing the set with an ultimate comeback at 22-20 in their favor. The crowd was on their feet for Set 3, where Ta. Crabb/Gibb had the lead the majority of the time. They had their first Championship Point opportunity at 14-13, but Brunner/Hyden retaliated and fought them off. The final play saw Taylor hitting the ball to the back of the court for 16-15 followed by Brunner smashing one into the net, resulting in the 17-15 victory that many onlookers had been hoping for (Final Score: 18-21. 22-20, 17-15).
After the match, Taylor shared, “I had nothing left, but you guys kept us going so thank you guys so much. We wouldn’t have won without the freeze… the fans have been so great to us all weekend and really pushed us through.”
Offseason, Here We Come
The 2019 Pro Tour season wrapped up in amazing (and tropical!) fashion and we would like to thank all of the fans, athletes, volunteers, and staff members that made this historical season possible. Stay tuned with our blogs and social media channels at @AVPBeach to keep up with what our athletes are up to during the off-season. We look forward to catching you on the sand in the new decade! 👋