It’s the third of the Gold Series in Second City, and everyone is looking for first place.
Sorry, I had to. Done being corny; let’s get to the teams.
Every team playing overseas during the Manhattan Beach Open is back for Chicago. That means both Atlanta winners – Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss (TKN) and Miles Partain/Andy Benesh – and other top seeds Sara Hughes/Kelly Cheng and Brandie Wilkerson/Melissa Humana-Paredes are all in for Chicago. (Side note: all four AVP teams who entered the Hamburg FIVB won their pool and advanced to the quarterfinals; then TKN took second place overall. Once again, we have the best athletes in the world on our Tour. So cool.
Of course, MBO Winners Betsi Flint/Julia Scoles and Taylor Crabb/Taylor Sander will be hungry for back-to-back wins to end the Gold Series. I still can’t get over those two stories: the women who battled through the entirety of the Contenders bracket after losing their first. Talk about adversity. And the little brother who stopped his big brother from elite four-peat history, cementing his own legend with an MBO Pier plaque. All of this was done in the pouring rain of an unexpected (if not underwhelming) tropical storm. It was movie magic.
I’m sure every team would love to end the regular season on a high with a Windy City win. Let’s review the 2023 AVP winners to date:
Miami Open | March 17-19
Women: Melissa Humana-Paredes & Brandie Wilkerson
Men: Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander
NOLA Open | April 14-16
Women: Sara Hughes & Kelly Cheng
Huntington Beach Open | May 19-21
Women: Sara Hughes & Kelly Cheng*
Men: Miles Partain & Andy Benesh
Hermosa Beach Open | July 7-9
Atlanta Gold | August 4-6
Women: Taryn Kloth & Kristen Nuss
Men: Miles Partain & Andy Benesh*
MBO Gold | August 18-20
Women: Betsi Flint & Julia Scoles
Men: Taylor Crabb & Taylor Sander*
*Second 2023 AVP Title
Only three teams have won two titles this year. Gotta love that parity.
The only outlier here is Miles and Andy. They have won every AVP they’ve entered in 2023. Will they go three for three in Chicago? Will one of the other Men’s teams slay the growing giant? Or maybe a new team will come from nowhere and claim the title.
The women are so neck and neck that odds on them are basically even. Notable mentions are Sarah Sponcil, who will not be playing Chicago; her former partner Terese Cannon will likely play with a TBD replacement. Megan Kraft is unable to play due to college commitments, so Emily Stockman, too, will swoop up one of the luckiest players in recent AVP history – Megan J. Rice.
Rice has now made three 2023 Main Draws due to injury or extenuating circumstance replacements. That’s not to say she didn’t earn her stripes; Rice made it to the Hermosa Beach Finals in her first AVP. She’s clearly a bonafide competitor and a solid Main Draw player.
Every tournament city has something special about it, but Chicago holds the tightest hold on my heart. Playing in the shadow of the iconic Chicago skyline and finishing the Gold Series in one of the great American cities just feels right.
General Admission is free as always, and there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the Chicago Gold Series in elevated style. If you can’t be there, catch Courts 1 & 2 on Bally Live and Stadium Court on ESPN+ up until the Finals, when we switch to airing live on ESPNU at 3PM (Central US) on Sunday, September 3.
If you want to catch the finals live, make sure you’ve got ESPNU on your current cable package, or you’ve got Fubo ready to go.