How do I even begin to summarize the 2022 AVP season? With six months of volleyball, there’s too much good to recap. But I can’t stop thinking about how fun this season was. Let’s revisit some of the epic highlights of the Pro and Gold Series events.
First – travel! For the first time since 2019, we were all over the country playing beach volleyball. We returned to Louisiana, Florida, and Phoenix for the first time in years, shepherding in new fans and welcoming back the die-hards. Krieg Field in Austin, TX, was the perfect vibe for the year’s first event. And Chicago and Atlanta proved excellent backdrops for two of the three Gold Series tournaments.
It felt so good to be all back together, with tons of people running back and forth between courts. We had beautiful weather all year (save for the multiple delays in Atlanta), and the fans came out in droves. Whether we were in the beach volleyball heavens of Hermosa and Manhattan or an NBA arena in the middle of a concrete jungle, every tournament felt fun and festive. Almost like I’d been holding my breath for two years, just waiting and hoping for those moments. The volleyball community is wildly entertaining, intensely supportive, and unlike any other sport. Getting back to them was just *chef’s kiss*.
The Tour Series opened up opportunities for burgeoning AVP talent to go far. I’m convinced the Tour Series provided the chance for Geena Urango and Julia Scoles to win. Their qualification into Hermosa and Fort Lauderdale through Tour Series events provided Scoles/Urango the mental space and physical energy to go deep in their first three Pro/Gold Series events. They secured 3rd in Hermosa, 2nd in Fort Lauderdale, and 1st in Atlanta, all in a row. Jake Dietrich and Hagen Smith had two incredible tournaments as a Qualifier team. In fact, they almost made it to the Phoenix Championships. Who knows what those two breakout teams would have been capable of if they had to qualify the day before play.
My favorite part of 2022 was all the different victors. There was more parity this year than I’ve ever seen, with each tournament giving us new champs until mid-August. That’s wild! Each event had something a little extra special about the winners.
Austin Women: Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss, who won the first event in 2021 and completely rocked the volleyball world. They started their season looking so good, taking down the reigning World Champs and Olympians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.
Austin Men: Phil Dalhausser and Andy Benesh, two 6’9″ blockers who came together just days before the tournament. Their run was wildly fun, primarily because, in all the thousands of matches we’ve seen Phil Dalhausser play, we’ve never seen him play defense. But it was also a significant coming-out moment for Andy Benesh, a player who continues to prove his talent. Benesh’s Austin win started the streak of first-time AVP winners in 2022.
New Orleans Women: Betsi Flint and Kelly Cheng, notching their first win as a team and in commanding fashion. They played their final match against Taryn and Kristen, the heart and hope of Lousianna volleyball, in Louisianna. The stands were packed with TKN fans, but Flint/Cheng didn’t care one bit. That NO Final may have been one of their best matches all year; so much grit and fire emanating from those two.
New Orleans Men: Phil Dalhausser and Casey Patterson, two legends who had somehow never played together. With so much opponent energy between these two, the chemistry was firing from the first serve. Patterson admitted to feeling a lot of pressure to win with Dalhausser; thankfully, he rose to the occasion. Dalhausser’s dominance in the two initial 2022 tournaments was spectacular, an excellent opening to one of his final seasons on Tour.
Hermosa Women: Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon, in easily their best tournament of the year. And not just because they won; they played on a different level than they had been. Sponcil touched everything while Cannon’s wall of a block crippled her opponents’ offense. They also beat Sponcil’s Olympic partner Cheng in the Finals. Winning is always fun, but defeating your old partner to win your first AVP is about as sweet as it gets.
Hermosa Men: Theo Brunner and Chaim Schalk, a team who desperately needed their first win together. As one of the best teams on Tour and two guys who had won before, it was just a matter of time before they got their victory. Interestingly, they did so through the Contender’s Bracket after losing their second match. Hermosa saw two teams who were due for an AVP win.
Ft. Lauderdale Women: Hailey Harward and Tina Graudina, who everyone expected a lot from but maybe not winning the whole shebang. This #8-seed virtually came out of nowhere, minus the fact they were the best college team in the Spring of 2022, and Graudina earned 4th in Tokyo. They were both first-time winners, it was their debut AVP as a team, and they took down some big names on their way to the trophy. Super fun tournament to watch from the two Trojans.
Fort Lauderdale Men: Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, with a social media guarantee from Trevor. Not only did they win, but they didn’t drop a single set. They took down Brunner and Schalk, who were fresh off their Hermosa victory. And they had had a super rough start to their season, both abroad and domestically. Not sure why Trevor felt the confidence to guarantee their win in Florida, but he must’ve known something we didn’t.
Atlanta Women: Geena Urango and Julia Scoles, the perfect veteran/rookie duo who had never won an AVP before. Their win was so stunning that I wrote a whole piece on it, just loving the story of Urango’s years-long battle and Scoles’ meteoric rise to the top. It was also their second Final in as many weeks, a massive accomplishment for a team who started in the Tour Series.
Atlanta Men: Paul Lotman and Miles Partain, who had been stuck in a Semifinals curse for a while. They consistently earned 3rd place, falling short of the Finals. That is, until everything clicked in Atlanta. Though they’re also a vet/rookie duo in a sense, Lotman’s experience is primarily indoor, and Partain has been playing beach since he was a kid. We were all waiting for the 20-year-old to get his first AVP. Atlanta was undoubtedly the first of many for the wunderkind.
Manhattan Beach Open Women: Sara Hughes and Kelley Kolinske; what a final! This was one of the most intense finales all year, with opponent history, drama, and a come-from-behind, seemingly miraculous finish. This wasn’t either Hughes or Kolinske’s first AVP win, but an MBO win is memorable. You officially solidify your spot in beach volleyball history with your name on the Manhattan Beach Pier.
Manhattan Beach Open Men: Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, in the first repeat victory of 2022 for either gender. After a disappointing follow-up to their Ft. Lauderdale win in Atlanta, the Hawaiians rallied in full force. They’re now back-to-back MBO Champs, and Trevor has secured the very rare three-peat.
Chicago Women: Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss, finally pulling off the first women’s repeat victory. These young guns proved the 2021 hype about them was warranted, pulling off the regular summer season bookend wins in style. Their last four matches in Chicago were four of the best of the season, all three-set barnburners featuring incredible play.
Chicago Men: Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, confirming they’re the best team in 2022. To top it all off, Trevor took down his little brother Taylor in the Finals. Even saved a match point at the end of the third set. Everyone loves a Crabb Boil, but when it’s for the tournament victory in the last open tournament of the summer season, the match goes to three sets, and it all happens in the rain? Cinematic brilliance, right there.
Phoenix Championships Women: Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss, this time without losing a single set. The LSU Tigers absolutely crushed people in the Footprint Center. Nuss’ defense was locked in, as usual. But it was her offense that really gave them a leg up. Nuss’ toolbox was more vast in the shallow indoor sand. That paired with Kloth’s consistent presence and the team’s natural chemistry, it’s no wonder we witnessed their best event of 2022.
Phoenix Championship Men: Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander, notching their first team win and claiming the “Champion” moniker. Crabb is no stranger to winning and stayed cool and calm as always. The X-factor in Phoenix was Sander’s serve. It was unlike anything seen on the beach, an absolute bullet. And a relatively consistent one at that. If he wasn’t notching an ace, he was getting his opponent out of the system. Or just scaring them, which works, too.
The winners were just one highlight of the year, of course. We had unforgettable moments, love stories, hard goodbyes, record-breaking scores, new talent, and old favorites. 2022 brought more AVP events than we’ve seen in many years, each with a unique personality. And the Phoenix Championship revealed a revolutionary new way to do beach volleyball.
Overall, 2022 proved an amalgam of old and new, familiarity and experimentation. It was the AVP we missed, but also the AVP of the future. And we still have one more Pro Series to go!