We are officially less than a week away from the first tournament of the 2019 AVP season and we are FIRED UP. The Entry Lists for next weekend’s Huntington Beach Open have been released, and while seedings won’t be finalized until next week, we can connect some dots. 😏
It’s no surprise that the ageless Jake Gibb and young star, Taylor Crabb are one of the top-seeded teams on the men’s side, along with 2016 Olympians Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser. Interestingly enough, using AVP points, it looks like Lucena/Dalhausser will fall into that #2 spot.
On the women’s side, April Ross and Alix Klineman, who plan to pick up right where they left off in 2018 with three consecutive victories, are the ones with a target on their back. But they have ample competition.
Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman were awarded the AVP Team of the Year in 2018. Are they invincible? Several teams think not.
Top teams Summer Ross and Sara Hughes have emerged as a huge factor on the tour, and Emily Stockman and Kelley Larsen just racked up some international points in China. Betsi Flint and Emily Day are coming off a second-place finish in Australia. All three teams are eager to take down the #1 seed and hoist the first AVP trophy of 2019.
Always a threat: Head a little further down the Entry List and watch for Kelly Reeves and Brittany Howard, the AVP Rookie of the Year in 2018.
Don’t let the points fool you: Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, the No. 3-ranked team in the world from Canada (it’s a small world– they’ve established their residency in the USA), are lurking a little lower in the bracket due to rankings being based on AVP points only.
In the up-and-coming department, Lara Dykstra and Cassie House have been touring the world, winning consecutive international tournaments in Cambodia and Malaysia and finishing in fifth place in Goteborg, Sweden.
The most fascinating pairing of the tournament might be Kelly Claes and Brandie Wilkerson. Claes, the former unbeatable star with Hughes at USC, is a highly regarded blocker. Wilkerson, another Canadian, is merely regarded as the best blocker in the world, so it will be interesting to see that dynamic…and who will be playing defense.
Who will be a threat to the men’s top two seeds? That will likely depend on how some new teams fit together.
Ed Ratledge and Roberto Rodriguez, winners at AVP San Francisco in 2018, find themselves towards the top of the Entry List, and will certainly be looking to make their mark.
International alert: New team Chaim Schalk and Jeremy Casebeer will be teaming up for their first event together EVER. Schalk is a 2016 Olympian from Canada who is making the most of his dual citizenship. These two passionate and vocal players are sure to bring some fire any time they step on the sand.
Olympic/NBA connection: Casey Patterson, a Manhattan Beach Open champ who reached the Olympics with Gibb, is teaming up with Chase Budinger, who spent seven seasons in the NBA after a stellar career at The University of Arizona. These two will be stepping on the AVP sand as a team for the first time next weekend, and we cannot wait to see what happens.
Don’t count out: Billy Allen, a two-time AVP winner, and Stafford Slick, another AVP champion. These two are a new team as well…kinda. Allen and Slick previously played together a few years back and have re-connected this off-season during the big men’s partner shuffle.
Welcome to the AVP 2019 Pro Tour, which promises to intrigue everyone. Grab a beach chair or pull up Amazon Prime Video, and let the drama unfold.