We’re all hungry for sports. It’s been more than a month since the major sporting leagues and events were paused, postponed, or canceled. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of watching golf reruns (sorry, Mark) and sensationalized coverage about the NFL draft and trades. *Yawn*
So instead, we’re going to point you to some choice matches of the 2019 AVP season. It was a whirlwind of a year with history-making finals, double-digit win tournament runs, and some of the longest freezes in freeze history (which I realize is only three years, but come on… we need the drama).
Here are the two best women’s matches of 2019.
Ross/Klineman vs. Pavan/Humana-Paredes
Amazon Prime 2019 AVP Manhattan Beach Open Day 3, Women’s Final
First serve: 7:12
Favorite Points: 32:13 & 35:52
It’s hard to pick which is a better match between these two teams — the Huntington Beach final (with its fourteen-minute, 6-match point freeze) or this MBO final. In the end, I had to go with this one because it just had so much on the line. These two powerhouse international teams were in the thick of a rivalry that spanned the globe for the entire 2019 season.
Tensions were high leading into this match for a variety of reasons:
- Alix and April were defending their 2018 MBO title.
- Alix and April were up 4-3 in the overall count between these two teams.
- A Canadian had never gotten their name on the pier.
- Mel and Sarah had recently beat the A-Team in the finals at the World Championships in Hamburg. That win earned the Canadians an auto-berth into Tokyo 2021. Or… 2020?
- Alix and April were the #1 seed and Mel and Sarah were the #11. Mel and Sarah received the Wild Card as they hadn’t accumulated enough AVP points, and the AVP placed them as the #11 seed to avoid playing the top to seeds in the early rounds. It also provided that if both teams went undefeated until the finals, they would face each other. Which is, of course, what happened.
- It’s the Granddaddy. That alone would’ve been enough.
From the first point where both dominating blockers (Sarah won FIVB Best Blocker and Alex won AVP Best Blocker) stuffed a should-be-point-ending ball, you could feel the crowd amp up and settle in for a long and insanely gratifying match. The first set was basically a match in itself. Neither team earned more than a three-point advantage, and the overtime was absolutely insane. All four players were on fire. Throughout the match, I couldn’t figure out who I wanted to win. I love all four athletes, and all four athletes deserved their name on the pier. Plus, I loved the unabashed competitive rivalry. No high-fives; lots of staredowns.
Though the end of the first set contains my favorite plays, the third set was also unreal. Mel and Sarah were up 13-10 in the third, but Alix and April did not go down easy. Alix got two stuff blocks to tie the game 13-13 before Mel and Sarah froze the score at Championship Point. The freeze is about ten minutes long, and it’s an absolute grind the whole time.
I watched the Men’s Final after this match and then headed up Shellback — the legendary dive bar right above the Manhattan Beach Pier. Mark and I were just going to stop in and see who was there. Traditionally, winners of the MBO celebrate their victory at Shellback. Lo and behold, Sarah Pavan, her husband Adam, and coach Scott had been celebrating for the last hour sardined in the corner amongst a sweaty, sticky horde of volleyball fans (poor Mel had to catch a flight right after the final for a family wedding). We jumped right into the shenanigans and toasted with Fanta shots to their names on the pier and the tying of their overall A-Team vs. Eh-Team score (get it? Eh? Cuz they’re Canadian…).
(Watch the full match here.)
Sponcil/Claes vs. Larsen/Stockman
Amazon Prime 2019 AVP Seattle Open Day 3, Women’s Semi-Final #2
First serve: 1:32
Favorite Points: 12:26 & 57:24
Controversial call: 58:50
During the first set, Sponcil and Claes were completely in control. They maintained the lead nearly the entire time and looked very much in sync. The last point of the first set was a sick audible slide dish from Sponcil that Claes rips crossbody. Watching this match live, I thought they were headed to their second final in a row.
Sponcil and Claes started the second set just how they ended the first, forcing Larsen and Stockman to call an early 3-6 timeout. But Coach Evie Matthews must have had some excellent scouting and instruction during this timeout. Coming out of it, they began serving tougher, reading better on defense, and reclaimed the momentum.
So far in their team’s young career, Claes and Sponcil were 7-0 when they won the first set. But Stockman and Larsen were on a mission this tournament, and also in familiar territory. This was their third three-setter in Seattle, including their first match against the qualifying #15 seed (they won 15-13 in the third). Stockman and Larsen couldn’t have cared less about Claes and Sponcil’s first-set win streak; that second set was theirs after the early timeout.
Claes and Sponcil went on a mini-run early in the third, which can often be a quick nail in the coffin. But after Stockman and Larsen call a timeout at 8-5, Claes served it out giving her opponents a timely gift. Larsen and Stockmen regained their footing and make the rest of the set tight, but that iced service error may have cost the youngsters the game.
There’s also a controversial call at 12-13. Larsen may have been in the net, but the refs awarded them a point. Claes and Sponcil were furious; Sponcil began pacing and Claes made multiple visits to the ref stand to argue before they reset for the next point. That point was huge, the difference between a 14-12 freeze and a tie at 13-13. But, I have to admit, it makes for a more interesting finish. I’ll just leave it here — you can watch to see what happens.
(Watch the full match here.)