The athletes’ votes are in, and we have our 2022 End of Year Award winners! Some were shoe-ins, others more nuanced. You can find all the winners on AVP’s Instagram. Our social media team drummed up all the fun stats on each winner. But I couldn’t resist diving in and digesting a few of these choices further, giving deeper context as to why these winners won.
Note – there were no nominees, except for Rookie of the Year. Athletes were given categories, and they wrote in names. While voting wasn’t mandatory, the athletes take these awards very seriously. Nearly every individual polled answered.
Defensive Player of the Year – Sarah Sponcil & Taylor Crabb
Sarah Sponcil is one of our youngest Olympians for a reason. Her 7.1 digs per set in 2022 explain why she got her first AVP win and was half of one of the most consistent teams on Tour. She’s noticeably improved her offense, converting those digs into real points. The Flying Squirrel moniker and acrobatics don’t hurt, either.
Taylor Crabb proved once again how talented he is, winning a Pro Series with two different partners and making the Finals in three other events. Crabb’s picturesque run-downs and on-point digs afforded him opportunity; his whip-like arm and bouncy vertical helped rack the points up.
Offensive Players of the Year – Miles Partain & Kelly Cheng
The two best on-two attackers took the cake for Offensive Player this year. Sounds like the athletes find this crafty style of play hard to defend.
Miles does something no one else does – consistent, clean jump sets. This sets him up (pun intended) to either attack with his deadly southpaw on the second touch or dish his partner. The blocker has to honor Partain’s offense, so if he sells the option hit, his partner is left with an open net. It’s truly gorgeous. And if you’re wondering why opponents don’t just serve Partain, it’s because his passing is on point and his standard offense is just as impossible. Ergot – the best.
Kelly Cheng has been known for her on-two offense for years. Her vision is stunning; she almost always gets a kill off the tiny pokes over the block, which have the added benefit of driving the max-jumping blocker crazy. But they have to max jump because Cheng can also absolutely destroy an option hit. This, paired with beautiful hands and solid serve-receive offense, makes her very similar to Partain. And just as unstoppable.
Most Improved Player – Terese Cannon & Miles Partain
Terese Cannon finished the year with the third most Blocks, Aces, and Kills and sixth most in Controlled Blocks, but her greatest improvement was intangible. Cannon went from potential to real talent. She graduated from Tier 2 to Tier 1 before our eyes, earning her two best finishes and establishing her dominance at the net.
Miles Partain has been climbing the ranks for a few years now, but his 2022 performance solidified him as one of the best male players in America. His stats improved, he got his first win, and he had the best offensive performance for the men. After earning Rookie of the Year just three years ago, this 20-year-old phenom is still awing audiences and impressing his fellow athletes.
Rookie of the Year – Taylor Sander & Julia Scoles
Rookies don’t often win tournaments, but the 2022 ROYs aren’t your everyday athletes. For context, the nominees were the top three highest-ranked athletes with four or fewer Main Draws played in a season and no previous ROY nomination on past ballots. For the men, they were Taylor Sander, Evan Cory, and Tim Brewster. The women were Julia Scoles, Hailey Harward, and Megan Kraft.
Taylor Sander finished the year in the Top 10 in Kills, Aces, Blocks, Controlled Blocks, and Hitting Percentage. Sander gave us some of the best highlight videos of the year, destroyed everyone with his serve (which is why he also won Best Server), and won the first-ever Phoenix Championships alongside Taylor Crabb. Lucky for AVP fans, this indoor Olympian is now a solid, formidable presence on our beach.
Julia Scoles may have had confidence from her back-to-back NCAA Championships, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted her rise to the top. In her first three Pro Series events, she and Geena Urango finished 3rd, then 2nd, then 1st at the debut Gold Series event of the year in Atlanta. Scoles ended the season in the Top 10 for Blocks, Controlled Blocks, Aces, and Hitting Percentages among women who played at least 25 matches. And though her bestie Hailey Harward also won an event in her Rookie year, Scoles’ consistency proved the deciding factor.
Most Valuable Player – Kelly Cheng & Tri Bourne
Kelly Cheng came to play this year. She earned Best Offensive player, led the league in Kills and Aces, and finished second in Attacks and Hitting Percentage. Beyond her stats, Cheng placed in the top 3 in eight of her nine tournaments (woah!). She won a Pro Series with Betsi Flint in May and then finished her AVP season with a Tour Series win alongside old-turned-new partner Sara Hughes.
The Olympics took Tri Bourne to the next level. Though he’s been a force on our beach for almost a decade, winning Most improved in 2013 and Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, Bourne elevated his game even further this year. The 6’5″ split-blocker finished in the Top 10 of every major statistical category, a crazy feat as a non-specialized player.
If you’re wondering why Phil Dalhausser could make history by winning three events with three different partners in a single season and not be voted MVP, you’re not alone. To be fair – voting closed before Dalhausser and Taylor Crabb won the season’s final event in Central Florida. Dalhausser’s early season wins may have been long forgotten by the time voting rolled around. Bourne had big numbers, three wins, and consistent top finishes. In my opinion, it could have gone to either of them.
Serving, Blocking, and Team of the Year
These awards didn’t feel like they had much meat to detail. Best Servers were Taylor Sander and Betsi Flint, while Best Blocking went to the powerhouses Brandie Wilkerson and Theo Brunner. Team of the Year did indeed go to Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss and Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb. Thank God, because I definitely inferred voting would be rigged if they didn’t win. Would have been awkward.