NOLA AVP action starts in less than a week! The Women’s side is stacked with all the top teams in town, and the Men’s side boasts some pretty exciting, unexpected new partnerships.
Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth are making their 2023 debut in their backyard. Nuss – who has lived in New Orleans her entire life – converted her LSU Tigers partner into a Louisiana native herself. The duo finds pleasure in being one of the few top teams who has not made the move to Southern California. Instead, they live and train together in New Orleans year-round.
The 2022 Team of the Year missed the AVP Miami Beach Open; they spent that weekend winning an international tournament in Mexico – no big deal. Kloth/Nuss are now back on the AVP and looking to bring home the NOLA trophy. Last year, they made the New Orleans Finals but fell short of the win. The stands were packed with purple and gold TKN fans, but their opponents Betsi Flint/Kelly Cheng were on fire, winning the NOLA event in two decisive 21-15 sets.
Speaking of Kelly Cheng – she and partner Sara Hughes are playing their first AVP Pro Series together in New Orleans, also on a major momentum run. Cheng/Hughes won their first four tournaments together, including the AVP Huntington Tour Series. They followed those up with two 5th-place finishes and another win at their most recent event. To say this team is one of the front-runners is an understatement.
Miami Beach Open winners Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson are also among the favorites to take the NOLA Open. The Canadians look better and better every time they play. In their first AVP together last year in Chicago, they lost a tight third-set Final to Kloth/Nuss. The next time we saw them was in Miami Beach, where they won against Betsi Flint/Julia Scoles.
Flint/Scoles come in as the three-seed and are rising stars on the Women’s side. Flint – who’s half of the reigning NOLA Champ team – brings experience and veteran energy with her six AVP titles. Scoles – the 2022 Rookie of the Year – improves daily.
The last team to make the Main Draw may prove a dark horse – Savvy Simo and Toni Rodriguez. They, too, missed Miami Beach to play in an international event where they took home an impressive 2nd place. Rodriguez – another LSU Tiger – spent most of 2022 injured (after tearing something in a highly-anticipated NOLA night game last May). She and Simo are hungry to make names for themselves, and they’re starting where they left off – New Orleans.
The Men’s side boasts a handful of returning teams and unexpected partnerships. Let’s start with the former.
Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk will make their AVP debut as a team, and I am really excited to see them play. Bourne – one half of the 2022 Team of the Year – made headlines last fall when he disbanded his partnership with Trevor Crabb to pick up Schalk. Schalk – a 2016 Olympian and 2-time AVP Champ – is one of America’s best defenders. Their formation has been on everyone’s radar for months, and now we finally get to see them play on AVP sand.
Tim Brewster and Kyle Friend come in as the #2 seed, an impressive accomplishment as they were still qualifying for events as late as the Atlanta Gold Series last August. Brewster/Friend have earned 5th or better through the Winner’s Bracket in the last four AVPs they’ve played (1 Gold, 2 Pro, 1 Tour).
Other returning teams include Rafu Rodriguez/Dave Palm, Chase Frishman/Cody Caldwell (who had an incredible breakout 3rd-place tourney in Miami Beach), Lila Tucker/Paul Lotman, and Hagen Smith/Bill Kolinske. Evan Cory – a Metairie, LA native – and his partner Logan Webber are making their 2023 AVP debut as well. Expect big crowds and cheers coming from the fans on Cory’s court.
Now for some of the unexpected partnerships. Billy Allen/Troy Field will play their first event together. Field played Miami Beach with Phil Dalhausser, and Allen had a surprising 13th-place finish with Andy Benesh. Tim Bomgren picked up Jake Dietrich, while Avery Drost switched to Travis Mewhirter. Dietrich/Drost played Miami Beach together, while Bomgren’s partner Piotr Marciniak suffered an injury, and Mewhirter failed to qualify. With all these mixups, anything is possible, and nothing is predictable!
All the action starts at the Thursday Qualifier, April 13, at Coconut Beach in Kenner, Louisiana. On Friday and Saturday, we’re playing from 12 pm – 10 pm, finishing both nights under the lights. Sunday starts at 10 am. Hosted at the biggest sand complex in the nation – complete with a bar/restaurant, three courts, and just minutes from famed Bourbon Street – Coconut Beach is home an event like none other on the AVP schedule. Beach volleyball is on the rise in the southeast, and New Orleans is the epicenter.
If you can’t make it out to Coconut Beach, you can still stream every match live! Download and subscribe to ESPN+ for Stadium Court access all weekend. Then download the FREE Bally Live watch and earn app to catch all the Court 1 and 2 action. Both are available for Apple and Android.