This season was amazing for me. It was full of a ton of ups and downs, but what I love the most is that I got to play in more AVP events than ever before.
My favorite highlight of the season is an easy one: winning the Manhattan Beach open for the second time. There are only a handful of people who can say that they’ve won the Manhattan Beach Open once. That list gets way shorter when we’re talking about people who have won it multiple times. That’s why this one was so special for me. And the fact that we did it back-to-back, with huge targets on our backs, made it even better.
I think the Chicago Final was my favorite playing experience of 2022, but finishing the year with John Hyden in Central Florida was one of my favorite highlights for sure. Not only did we have unfinished business because our partnership was cut short back in 2017, but it was really important to me to be able to show up for John at that event and give him the opportunity to show what he is still capable of at 50 years old. It was a great opportunity for me to pay my respects and say thank you for helping me early on in my career.
When thinking about my favorite moment this year, Chicago and Phoenix immediately come to mind. Not sure if it is because they were the last ones, so they are fresh on my brain or the fact that we were able to come out victorious at both. It’s a toss-up on which one takes sole possession of my favorite memory, and I think that is because they were so different, even in the basics – tournament format, elements (outdoor vs. indoor), and the number of games.
Chicago was an absolute grind. We lost and had to fight our way back to the finals through the contender’s bracket. I remember waking up Sunday morning determined to play three matches that day; however, I do not think I was prepared for all three matches to go three sets and then some. That grueling day of fighting off numerous match points in the overcast mist was something special. But the one moment that stuck out was coming out of Stadium Court after winning the Final and being greeted by the large TKN support crew that had been providing us with the energy all tournament to keep fighting. Running into Lake Michigan with a majority of that crew is why Chicago is in consideration for my favorite moment.
Phoenix was so different, but like Chicago, Taryn and I went into the weekend determined to play three matches. That was about the only thing we knew. We had no idea what to expect as far as the venue or the crowd because it was the first time the AVP would be playing indoors in a while. Since I am a big sports fan, I was just geeked up to be playing in the Phoenix Suns arena. It turns out it was probably my favorite venue of the year. I am not sure if it was because it was indoors or some of the matches were at night, but the crowd was next level. At one of the timeouts in the Championship Match, Taryn and I were walking back to our bench, and all you could hear was the crowd loudly chanting, “T. K. N… T. K. N.” Taryn, our coach Drew, and I just sat in our box, looking at the crowd and trying to soak it all in. That moment is something a young athlete dreams about, which is why those 30 seconds in Phoenix may just be my favorite moment of AVP 2022.
Wow, what a year it’s been in my first season on the AVP. I learned just how special the beach community is, and my love for the game has continued to grow as I’m surrounded by incredible athletes pursuing excellence in all areas of life. This is one dedicated, passionate, lively, and competitive group.
There have been so many incredible memories throughout the year, and it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. At the Muskegon Tour stop, one of the first of the year, my parents stayed at a lake house. Hailey Haward, Falyn Fanoimoana, Geena Urango, and I made the best communal dinner there and shared stories and laughs the evening before the start of the tournament. In Colorado, Geena and I stayed with her family and friends. Their hospitality was unbeatable, and they also cheered for us the whole weekend. Thank you, Nancy & Jay! My favorite part of this sport is how it can bring people together, and that weekend truly was a testament to that.
Hermosa was special since I was able to play and compete in my new backyard. Fort Lauderdale had some pretty high highs but also some pretty bad lows, one being projectile vomiting in the timeout and having it air on national television. Another low was learning the hard way that heat injuries are, in fact, pretty serious injuries. The high was being able to play against my best friend and roommate, Hailey Harward, in the first Final we ever made. What a surreal and cool moment!
Atlanta had the coolest venue and the worst weather, but the bad weather made for some great memories. My favorite part about Atlanta was waiting out the rain in the players’ tent with the other athletes. There were some pretty intense ping pong matches played, lots of funny jokes shared, and a handful of ‘what are the odds’ games lost.
Manhattan was the first tournament where all of my favorite people got to come, and their presence was definitely the highlight. Phoenix was just unreal to get to play in the Footprint Center in front of the support crew that came out for the tournament. I’ll say it again, the people are what it’s all about!!
Huntington, I wasn’t able to play in, but I went as a spectator, and it was one of the best weekends of the year for me. There’s something about heckling that just gets me going! Not being in “game mode” made, just socializing with the fans and players can be so much more fun! I also was my friend Dana’s (shoutout to Buzzle media) intern for the weekend and got to interview some of the players and had some pretty good laughs (I’m not a natural content creator, but I tried).
Yes, the volleyball and travels were a great part of the season. But the best part of the year was creating a lifelong friend in my beach partner, Geena Urango. She is one of the best people I know in all respects. Words don’t do it justice, but to name a few: she’s hilarious, caring, intelligent, hardworking, creative, the most wicked ambidextrous athlete on the planet, and an incredibly fiery competitor while still being the most chill person you’ll ever meet. Not sure how she couples that combo, but she does it so well. I’ll always cherish the memories we made together. I learned so much from her, and I’m forever grateful!
Thank you, AVP, for the most memorable rookie year! God willing, I hope there are many more to come!
Reflecting back on this year, there is one highlight that is not only the most memorable moment of the year but will be a memory for a lifetime. That was playing against Casey Patterson in his final match.
Casey has been a huge role model to me throughout my career. A lot of my on-court personality is inspired by him. There will never be another C Patt, but any player with on-court flair or swagger has to credit Casey. His flair will live on through other players.
It was such a sad moment to find out Casey would be leaving the sport after our Match in Phoenix, but what a stage to be sent off. Competing indoors, in front of all those amazing fans, was amazing in itself. But to have the legend on the other side was just something spectacular. He had the crowd in the palm of his hands; no matter what he did, everyone was locked onto him. Even if he lost a point, it was still so fun to hear all of them root for him. It gave me glimpses of what Serena Williams had in her last tennis match. Win or lose. I knew that this was going to be an absolute blast!
A funny little secret: throughout my short career, every time Casey and I played against each other, we would meet at the net and say, “let’s put on a show.” That was just the player he was; that is what he taught me! He was the sport’s biggest entertainer. Whether you were cheering for him or against him, he always knew how to put on a show. I truly hope we put on one of the best shows that match.
I will never forget that hug at the end of the match and watching all those fans celebrate his incredible career. I can still hear all of their chants. It was extremely emotional to watch that send-off; I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. I genuinely hope everyone appreciates what Casey has done for this Sport. I don’t think it would be in the place it is if it wasn’t for him. He was a tremendous ambassador for the sport, and I hope I can be just a sliver of what he was. Thank you, Casey, for giving me my season highlight and inspiring me to be the on-court athlete I am today!
When I got a text from Kim Schuermann, which read, “Would you write about your favorite moment in the 2022 AVP season?” my immediate thought was – how in the world could I pick just one? With so much change in 2022 – from new partnerships to athletes’ personal triumphs to the retiring of TWO legends (yes, Nick Lucena, as much as you’d like to try to go unmentioned, you can’t slither away without due recognition here) – to simply pick one moment would deprive 2022 the justice and attention it deserves.
Some things weren’t unique to the 2022 AVP Season, and we’re grateful for that. The low-seed juggernaut still took down a top dog from time to time. The Saturday night battles for the ever-elusive Championship Sunday were still electric and some of the best matches. And the climax to our stories was still found in the crowning of a champion on Sunday.
However, new and good things came in 2022. We saw the return of a full slate of tournaments, had a much-needed family reunion in Hermosa Beach, and closed out the year with an indoor championship that had all the bells and whistles. Each weekend, it felt as if it was anyone’s tournament to win, making the competition that much more fun. So here is a list (sorry, Kim) of my top volleyball moments in 2022…
In no specific order…
• Celebrating the return of six 2020 Tokyo Olympians, Phil Dalhausser, Taylor Crabb, Tri Bourne, Nick Lucena, Kelly Cheng, and Sarah Sponcil
• Witnessing Phil Dalhausser win three tournaments with three different partners, including one in which he split-blocked
• The emergence of a new giant in Andy Benesh
• Our female defenders kicking it up a notch….weren’t they spectacular this year!?
• Taryn Kloth and Kristin Nuss proving they can win domestically and internationally
• Miles Partain and Paul Lotman earning their first titles, and watching Miles unable to sip on his adult beverage
• Geena Urango’s awesome resurgence to the top of the podium
• Tri Bourne eating sand after he and Trevor Crabb won another MBO title
• And Sara Hughes going full beast mode, tackling Kelley Kolinske after earning their names on the Manhattan Beach pier
But those are just the athletic highlights. This sport integrates life and competition more than most. You know these athletes, their stories, and their families. It’s one of the best parts of the AVP. So, I must also mention several big moments for our athletes this year that didn’t show up on their win-loss record.
In no specific order:
• Betsi Flint returning after the birth of her first child Cora, and playing more dynamically than ever
• Kelly and Jordan Cheng were married before the season’s start
• Emily (Day) Capers had a big year; while finishing up another degree, tutoring, and playing, she also just got married
• April Ross got some much-deserved rest while also earning her Master’s Degree
• Molly Turner celebrated her engagement to James Shaw
• Chase and Jess Budinger welcomed the newest member of their family, Beckham
• Alix Klineman got time to heal her body and enjoy her engagement to Teddy Purcell
• The McKibbin’s content launch with Wilson pumped out some amazing stuff
• Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander started a clothing line
• Kelley Kolinske returned after a knee injury to compete in a full season
• Tim and Lindsey Bomgren welcomed Brooks to their family
• Phil Dalhausser got a really cool new car
We also had to say so long to two icons of the sport, Casey Patterson and Nick Lucena. Both are incredible athletes and fathers who played so fervently for their families. I speak for everyone when I say: It’s an honor to know you and to have watched you play.
I have probably missed a million other moments and milestones, but Kim said I only got 500 words, and this is……well, more than that. So cheers to 2022! What a great year on the sand, AVP Family.