2022 End of Year Awards


It’s about time we crown some 2022 Superlative Winners. The athletes have been polled; who do we think will win the year’s top awards?

To refresh, the End of Year Awards are as follows:

Most Valuable Player (MVP)
Rookie of the Year
Most Improved
Best Defender
Best Offensive Player
Best Server
Team of the Year

We’ll know who the athletes chose shortly, but I couldn’t resist a little speculation.


With so many different winners this year, there’s a plethora of people that can be chosen. Of course – my mind goes to the winningest players of the season – Tri Bourne, Trevor Crabb, Kristen Nuss, and Taryn Kloth. Any of those four is more than deserving.

But MVP isn’t just about winning; it’s also about presence, the player you least likely want to match up against. So someone like Sarah Sponcil on defense or Kelly Cheng on offense. Or Sarah Hughes and Betsi Flint, who convert almost every dig into a kill. Maybe Theo Brunner’s block is too good, and though he and Chaim Schalk only won one event this year, they were one of the most consistent teams on Tour. Perhaps Miles Partain’s sneakiness is much feared. And what about Phil? He’s the only player to win with two different partners this year, let alone three different partners, and his two decades track record always speaks for him. Anyone’s game.

Rookie of the Year

The women’s side is super fun because we had two rookies win the whole thing. Julia Scoles and Hailey Harward – roommates, best friends, and National Champs – are my two hands-down choices on the Women’s side. But for me, Scoles gets the edge with her consecutive 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place finishes.

The men’s three choices are Taylor Sander, Evan Cory, and Tim Brewster. While Cory had a standout year (and is one of my favorites for Most Improved), and Brewster had a couple of insane moments, Sander has to win this one. He appeared in four Finals and finished the summer season with a Phoenix Championship win. Easy choice.

Most Improved

This is my favorite category because it’s fun to evaluate all the growth we’ve seen. Kloth and Nuss just keep improving, progressing from one win in 2021 to three in 2022. Cannon launched herself into the elites, pairing with an Olympian and significantly advancing her game. Urango went from the edge of retirement to winning an AVP.

Troy Field completely transformed his game, switching positions and showing a ton of promise as a defender. Partain went from a handful of good finishes to being one of the best players on Tour, with six Semifinal appearances and a win. Andy Benesh also ascended from the middle of the pack to AVP Champ. Cory traveled from obscurity to notoriety in just a few tournaments.

There’s a lot of improvement coming from both genders, partially because the two previous seasons were abbreviated for some and non-existent for others due to the pandemic. Though I can see any of these athletes taking the cake, I’m going with Cannon and Cory.

Best Defender

Best Defender is a toss-up. You can go off of stats, which I broke down in a recent article, but there’s more to it. Who is defending and delivering? Who is making more outlandish plays? Who is winning matches because of their defense? This category is totally up to interpretation.

Taylor Crabb makes some insane plays. Chaim Schalk almost always delivers after a dig. Miles Partain can read his opponents better than they can sometimes. Casey Patterson is a legend, while Field is a newbie defender who shocked us with his backcourt prowess.

On the Women’s side, Kristen Nuss, Sara Hughes, and Zana Muno are tied with 6.7 digs per set, and all three are terminal on conversions. Sarah Sponcil has the best stats, though, with 7.1 digs per set. Her offense also improved this year, turning those digs into points. Betsi Flint is just behind them, with 6.2 digs per set. So I’m torn. Nuss won the most. Flint was one of the most consistent finishers (with seven Semifinal appearances). But Sponcil has the best dig-to-set ratio. Who wins?

Best Blocker

When talking about Defenders, it’s only fair to account for the work their blocker is doing. How many digs could Nuss get without Kloth’s presence? Would Flint be able to be in the right spot if Cheng weren’t such a dynamic block? And what about Brandie Wilkerson and Sarah Pavan? Though they played fewer events than others, they’re two of the best blockers in the world, and Brandie had the most blocks per set at 1.7. Don’t count the Canadians out.

On the Men’s side, when I think blocker, I always think of Theo Brunner and Phil Dalhausser. Yes – Phil Dalhausser is legendary, but year after year, Brunner puts up better numbers than The Thin Beast. In 2022, Brunner tied Dalhausser with 1.4 blocks per set. Logan Webber also had 1.4 blocks per set, but when you consider Webber was more often in the Contender’s Bracket while Brunner stayed in the Winner’s Bracket, Brunner’s 1.4 is a tad more impressive.

Best Offensive Player

This isn’t only who gets the most kills or highest hitting percentage, but who is most intimidating, dominating, and relentless. Sander had the biggest bounce I’ve ever seen (thankfully captured by our social media team and, subsequently, made into a viral video). Partain hardly ever gets blocked, and his will-he-won’t-he-on-two shenanigans are impossible to read. Dalhausser remains one of the most effective offensive players in history. Budinger, Cory, and Bourne all put up impressive hitting percentage numbers.

Last year, when I made up these awards for fun, I gave Best Offense to John Hyden. The then-48-year-old stunned me with his 2021 performance. But Brunner had the best hitting percentage, and he didn’t let me live down my snubbing of him. This year – I have no power except that of the pen. So I am giving my Unofficial Best Offensive Player award to Theo Brunner.

On the Women’s side – Kloth, Cannon, and Kolisnke all have that crazy angle they hit so well. Pavan and Brandie are two hard-to-read, hard-hitting lefties. Scoles was dropping bombs, attacking the ball impossibly hard on her way to making a name for herself in her breakout season. But I think Cheng wins it for me. She can bang with insane firepower, but her little pokes on two remain and stunning and effective part of her offense.

Best Server

Taylor Sander basically won an entire tournament on his serve, so I have to give it to him. It looked physically painful passing his jump serve. If he wasn’t acing his opponents, he was getting them out of system. And with each tournament, Sander’s serve improved. Easy winner, in my eyes.

The women are much harder to pin down. Brandie’s serve is lethal but inconsistent, same with Sponcil and Cannon. Actually, that’s the case with many people. Most with high ace stats have almost double the errors. Flint and Emily Day both have high ace numbers and similar ratios of ace-to-miss, but Kaya Marciniak has the best, with 43 aces to 48 misses.

Team of the Year

If it’s not the two teams who three-peated victories in the year where every other victor only won one tournament, I’d be surprised. It’s gotta be Bourne/Crabb and Kloth/Nuss.

Get in on AVP’s final Bally Play game of the year and make your predictions for the AVP Award winners. The best score wins a 2023 VIP Ticket package worth $1500.

Category: AVP News, Current Season, Fun

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