Oh, how I’ve missed the AVP.
Our first fan-attended event was everything I dreamed of and more. The Atlanta fans were fun, loud, and resilient. They stayed for hours under the hot sun, undoubtedly bolstered by the athletic performances, cold drinks, and killer venue. Atlanta fans know how to have fun; we ran out of beer on the second day.
We also had two must-see sky balls on Stadium Court, brand new winners on the Women’s side, and an old school winner on the Men’s. We saw the Wannabes, the best National Anthem performance I’ve ever seen, upsets galore, DJ Roueche’s killer sets, and oh, so much more.
I wrote about the upsets earlier – how the 16 seed bested the 1-seed and the 9-seed on the same day. And how a recently graduated LSU team had two impressive “underdog” victories on their first day in the Main Draw. What I didn’t know is that team would go undefeated and win the entire tournament.
I’ll have more on Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth later this week. Not only do they deserve their own article, but we also have a lot to learn about them. They may prove the stars of the show, but there were plenty more standout performances in Atlanta.
Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger won their second AVP title after reviving their 2019 partnership. Casey was in full-form, leading in digs with 63, notching 9 aces, and hitting .457 on the weekend. The crowd absolutely adored him and Budinger, giving them lots of love when they needed it most. Like when they beat Taylor and Jake in straight sets in the Semifinals. Or after they lost the first set of the Finals. Let’s see if Team Chasey capitalizes on this momentum into MBO and claims back-to-back Championships.
Runners up Chaim Schalk and Theo Brunner also had a great weekend, winning every match until their 13-15 loss in the Finals. Theo, one of the most underrated players on Tour, in my opinion, had 29 blocks on the weekend (12 more than 2nd place). That’s 2.41 blocks per set, plus he hit .526. Chaim had 4.25 digs per set and hit .466.
Women’s Runners Up Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes battled through the Contenders Bracket after losing their first match in 3 sets to Megan Kraft and Savvy Simo. They played 3 matches in 6 hours on Saturday and 3 more in 6 hours on Sunday. With sand temps over 100° during most of the tournament, it’s a wonder they were even standing. Claes had the most hitting attempts overall by far (248, while 2nd place was Molly Turner at 204), registering 155 kills and an incredibly impressive .528 hitting percentage. Sponcil had 91 digs, and they both had 9 aces.
David Vander Meer and Mike Groselle earned 5th place after their two upsets on Day 1. Crissy Jones and Zana Muno matched their best finish as a team, cruising through the Winners Bracket and earning 3rd place. Molly Turner and Terese Cannon impressed us all with 3rd place, Molly’s best tournament ever. Both of their losses were to the Champs Kloth and Nuss, making their finish even more impressive. Terese hit .429 on the weekend while Molly was 3rd in digs behind the finalists Nuss and Sponcil.
Billy Allen and Andy Benesh also had a solid showing, earning 5th place in their first showing. Andy showed what all the hype surrounding him is about, notching 17 blocks (2nd overall behind Theo) and hitting .426 (while getting served nearly every ball). Billy was all over the place, as usual, notching 49 digs. Their final loss was a nailbiter against Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, a match which they easily could have won.
Rally of the weekend: Sarah Schermerhorn & Megan Rice vs. Savvy Simo & Megan Kraft. Can you count how many touches?
There was so much more, but I honestly can’t get it all in. You’re just going to have to come to Manhattan Beach THIS WEEKEND to see what happens next. Here’s a taste of what to expect:
- Your Tokyo Gold Medalists, April Ross and Alix Klineman, are back in action and looking for another plaque on the Pier.
- Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena will not be playing. Phil reported that though his family is all good now, he’ll be taking the weekend off to remain with them.
- Kloth and Nuss are out of the Qualifier due to the Wild Card bid they won from the AVPNext Gold event in Atlantic City. More on Wild Cards on Thursday.
- The points from Atlanta will only count towards MBO seeding, not toward entry points. The MBO registration deadline was before Atlanta AVP started, so the teams were set before Atlanta finishes were factored in.
- There are a lot of switch-ups on the Ladies’ side.
- Emily Stockman and Terese Cannon will play for the first time together. I’m excited to see Stockman back on the court.
- Kelley Kolinske is back from her injury and picked up Geena Urango, two very athletic players with a lot of promise.
- Corinne Quiggle will play with Emily Hartong after her usual partner Allie Wheeler injured her back.
- Molly Turner, after earning her best finish with Terese, is back with Macy Jerger. The duo played in a few CBVAs and AVPNexts earlier this year.
- Megan Kraft earned a Wild Card bid with Latvian Olympian and USC Trojan Tina Graudina. Kraft and Graudina are the 1s pair on the National Championship team from USC. They’re familiar with each other and very good.
- Savvy Simo is back with her UCLA partner Abby Van Winkle.
- The Men also have a few new duos.
- Nick Lucena picked up indoor Olympian and superstar TJ DeFalco. DeFalco is new to the beach but an insane indoor player; this will be fun.
- Stoked for legends Ricardo Santos and John Hyden to play together. Their potential is as high as Ricardo’s block. Their combined age is 94 (Hyden is 48, and Ricardo is 46). I love that.
- Miles Evans picked up Piotr Marciniak for their first tourney together.
- Miles Partain and Paul Lotman qualified through an AVPNext MBO bid. These two had an impressive AVP Chicago in 2019, earning 5th place.
- Avery Drost picked up Canadian Grant O’Gorman for MBO. Grant is playing is his first AVP; he plays for Canada with Ben Saxton on the FIVB Tour. Ben played with Chaim Schalk in the Rio 2016 Olympics before Chaim switched his citizenship to USA. Did you follow all that?
So basically – expect the unexpected at MBO. We made it back to our home beach, the Granddaddy of them all, the Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball. I don’t care what you want to call it, just be there or be square.
Free Admission is back in MBO. Stadium Court is first come, first serve but the size and layout are modified due to restrictions. The outer courts are open to the public again, so get to the venue early to stake your spot.
The AVP is coming home. We can’t wait to welcome you there.