Oh, Atlanta. You were a mixed bag.
While everything about the actual tournament went swimmingly, the weather really tried to drown us. We Californians aren’t too familiar with the unpredictability of lightning storms. Still, we did our best to pull off a stellar tournament. Just have to say – the AVP staff, crew, refs, and athletes flippin’ nailed it.
Inclement weather on Friday evening pushed us back three hours and a full round of the Winner’s Bracket. When we returned at 8pm, all we could do was get through the preliminary round of matches. Eventual Champs Geena Urango and Julia Scoles played their first point of the tournament at 9:30 pm on Friday.
Friday, however, turned out to be the better day. Saturday’s evening storm came out of nowhere and sent everyone heading for the Athletes’ tent, parking garage, or broadcast booth. The athletes played ping pong, the fans peppered between cars, and the staff rallied to figure out what the heck we were going to do.
While the rain was lesser on Saturday evening, steady lightning shut us down for the rest of the night. We had five more rounds of matches for both genders. AKA a potential nightmare. To make matters worse, a Sunday afternoon storm was brewing and set to hit between 1pm and 3pm. The powers that be had to act fast, and they did.
For the first time since 2015, the AVP ran abbreviated matches. Athletes played 1 set to 28 points, both in the Winners’ and Contenders’ Brackets. It wasn’t ideal for anyone, but everyone on site understood the assignment. And then ironically, Sunday was the only day we didn’t end up with a storm. Go figure.
Though a giant obstacle, the weather unearthed a lot of beauty, as well. The athletes were all understanding and patient as we worked and reworked their schedules. Refs, caterers, and ops teams were constantly vigilant, working odd hours and overtime without complaint. The social media team ran from court to court on Sunday morning, uploading as much real-time content to our social channels as possible to keep the fans engaged. It was a cluster, but everyone was game for the adversity.
Okay, enough about the weather. I sound like my father. Let’s get down to the four first-time Winners.
I’ll start with the ladies who I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the other day. They’re both so intelligent, well-spoken, and open that I opted to detail our conversation in an upcoming article. Stay tuned for that one.
Until then, we’ll just focus on their Atlanta run. After winning their first 9:30pm match against Corinne Quiggle/Sarah Schermerhorn, Geena and Julia lost to Sara Hughes/Kelly Kolinske. No strangers to the Contenders’ Bracket, the duo dug in and clawed their way back to the top.
And they really had to claw because their opponents were incredibly tough. They took down two 2022 AVP Champs in Kelly Cheng/Betsi Flint and Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss in their two sets to 28. Then they defeated the team who’d put them in the Contenders’ Bracket – Hughes/Kolinske. That defeat put Geena and Julia into their second Final in as many weekends. It also made them the most consistently successful Women’s team on Tour.
The final frontier was yet another AVP Championship team – Sarah Sponcil/Terese Cannon. It was the first time the two teams had met, and the odds were stacked against Geena and Julia. Sponcil/Cannon had sailed through the Winners’ Bracket, not dropping a set. They were fresh and feeling confident.
It was also sweltering, hovering around 100 degrees on the sand. Julia struggled with the heat in the Ft. Lauderdale Final, which had taken place just a week prior. She’d also played four more sets than Sponcil/Cannon that weekend.
If you didn’t watch the Ladies’ Final, I highly recommend it. Three sets of fun plays, big emotion, and four solid athletes. I love watching a first-time team win, especially when it’s people like Geena, who’s worked so hard for so many years, and Julia, who’s exciting new talent with raw potential.
For the first time in three years, we had double first-time Winners on the Men’s side. While we’ve now had three first-time winning Ladies’ pairs in a row (Woah!), the last time a Men’s team won for the first time was Trevor Crabb and Reid Priddy in Manhattan Beach 2019.
Quick caveat – Atlanta was the first time in Trevor’s career that he guaranteed a win and didn’t follow through. He and Tri Bourne earned an uncharacteristic 9th place after losing to Nick Lucena/Andy Benesh and then his brother Taylor with Taylor Sander. That Crabb Boil was the last match of Saturday before the rain; all four athletes were on fire, and they brought the thunder before the actual weather halted play for the night.
Okay, back to the Winners. Paul Lotman and Miles Partain have been flirting with the Finals for a while now. They earned three third-place finishes in the first three Pro Series events of the year. Paul and Miles are one of the most consistent Men’s teams on Tour (with the other being their Finals opponents, Chaim Schalk and Theo Brunner, who’ve now earned 3rd, 1st, 2nd, and 2nd in their first four AVPs).
It was just a matter of time before this classic vet/rookie duo in Paul/Miles made the Finals. But it wasn’t an easy route. They had to beat Phil Dalhausser/Casey Patterson twice! They also had to face Andy Benesh/Nick Lucena, a team that never quite reached their potential. Atlanta was Nick’s last tournament as he’s now assisting his wife, Brooke Niles, with the FSU Beach program. Announcer Mark and Nick’s longtime partner and buddy Phil Dalhausser gave this living legend a lovely sendoff.
After the crowd cheered for Nick, we watched the 20-year-old Miles Partain absolutely rule the court. That kid is so fun to watch, with his quick jump sets, impossible digs, and cheerful attitude. You can’t help but root for Miles. He’s the youngest person in 40 years to win an AVP.
It’s great to see Paul, someone who’s achieved so much on the indoor side, also get his first beach win. He’s steadily improved every year on Tour, and this vet has a lot left to give. It’s astounding to see their steady success this year. Especially because last year, just like Geena and Julia, Miles and Paul groveled through the Qualifier in two of three events.
Now that I think about it, there are many similarities between the two Winning teams. Veteran/rookie partnership, first-time winners, stellar trajectory over the last year, most consistently successful pairs, won in three sets to Hermosa Beach Champions. Spooky.
Their wins set these two teams up famously for September’s Phoenix Championships. Same goes for the 2nd and 3rd-place finishing teams. We’ll update you on standings in the upcoming MBO preview next week. Until then, make sure to revisit these two Finals and get pumped for the best tournament of the year.
OMG – I almost forgot to mention the Friday evening quadruple sky ball moment. Please, if you need to smile, watch this video. You absolutely love to see how much fun Phil is having on Tour this year.