Preview: AVP Central Florida Open


Happy Holidays from the AVP! Your present? More beach volleyball!

It’s about to be December, and when we’re typically full steam ahead on the end-of-year holidays, we get a little beachy interlude this year! Ft. Lauderdale was so much fun this July; we just had to return to Florida. Plus – it’s still 80 degrees. We really like 80 degrees.

The venue looks fantastic, a well-rated park in Lake County, Florida, just outside of Orlando. It’s beautiful, with fluffy white sand and natural recreation areas everywhere. Trails lead you through dense forests to hidden lagoons and the sprawling Lake Harris. It’s fun for the whole family all day long and the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.

The event will run like any Pro Series, with a 16-team draw over three days competing for $125,000. The pool of competitors looks slightly different this tournament, though. I’m stoked about a few of the pairings.

Like most of the year, Chaim Schalk and Theo Brunner sit at the #1 seed. As the most successful team in the tourney, they’re poised to win the whole thing. But they have some unlikely duos nipping at their heels.

All the volley nerds’ collective dream came true when Phil Dalhausser and Taylor Crabb paired up. For years, we’ve wondered how the volleyball legend and wunderkind defender would play together. We’re finally getting it in the twilight of Dalhausser’s career; can’t wait to see how they complement each other. Also – Dalhausser’s two wins this year came with brand new partners. Can he go three for three?

Another fun duo is an oldie but goodie. Yes, I’m talking about FIFTY-YEAR-OLD John Hyden teaming up with his former partner Tri Bourne. The duo played together six years ago, when Hyden was a well-established AVP presence and Bourne was an unknown Hawaiian. Hyden took Bourne under his wing, helping grow him into the powerhouse he is today. Bourne’s autoimmune disease derailed their Olympic dreams and, ultimately, the partnership. But now, in maybe John Hyden’s last tournament, the two are back to settle some unfinished business. Hyden will be the only 50-year-old to play in an AVP and is already the oldest winner. Can he solidify his place in beach volleyball history by winning an AVP at 50?!

Those top 3-seeded teams are trailed by just a few points by some other familiar names. Reid Priddy is back on our beach, this time with Chase Budinger. Summer 2022 breakout teams Jake Dietrich/Hagen Smith and Tim Brewster/Kyle Friend are safely in the Main Draw, along with other crowd favorites, including Tim Bomgren and Evan Cory. Most teams are brand new, maybe trying something out for the 2023 season. Meaning Christmas and 2023 are coming early.

The Women’s side has slightly less newness but still some fun fresh partnerships. Geena Urango and Emily Day are the two of only three women competing who have won an AVP (the third being Hailey Harward), and they’re playing together! Their veteran energy and experience will go a long way against the fresh faces they’ll see all weekend.

Every other team is chomping at the bit to call themselves an AVP Winner. Corinne Quiggle and Sarah Schermerhorn are a solid team that’s remained middle of the pack all season. As the #2-seed and after a season of competing and traveling together, they’re coming in with tons of confidence.

Molly Turner and Kaitlyn Malaney are fresh off their first event together, where they earned third place at the Huntington Tour Series event a few weeks ago. Their dedication is astounding – Turner is traveling (without connections) almost 5,000 miles from Germany, where she’s currently spending the holidays with her fiance. Malaney is flying just a few miles fewer from Hawaii. Love to see what these ladies are doing for their love of the game.

We’ll see preexisting teams like Deahna Kraft/Allie Wheeler and Kim Hildreth/Kaya Marciniak, but most other duos are new. Harward is pairing up with Kelly Reeves; their partnership is sure to be a flex-off of firepower. Carly Kan, who played most of 2022 with Malaney, is picking up the dynamic and talented Jen Keddy, while Keddy’s 2022 partner Katie Dickens is pairing up with Carly Skjodt, who won Seaside with Turner.

It’s a tangled web of former flames and new hope. Like the men, we’re getting a preview of who may take on the 2023 season together. Cannot wait to see who rises to the occasion. As a year split between first-time winners and seasoned Champs, this Holiday Extravaganza is anyone’s for the taking.

So who’s coming out to finish the year strong and witness a little taste of the future? General admission is free, but grab a Courtside Box or Club AVP pass for shade, booze, and food! As always, if you can’t make it, tune into AVP’s YouTube channel for Stadium and Court 1 coverage or follow along with live scoring.

Category: Current Season, Pro

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