It’s on now. The battle for supremacy on the 2019 AVP Tour begins in earnest this morning, with top-seeded Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb facing more than their share of challenges on the men’s side, and top-seeded women April Ross and Alix Klineman hoping to pick up where they left off in 2018.
Both top-seeded teams were voted as the Team of the Year in 2018 but all that means, as they kick off the season today with the $100,000 Huntington Beach Open, is that they are the targets for everyone else in the 24-team main draw.
Gibb and Crabb, who won twice last season with two second-place finishes, have an interesting draw in the brackets. With a victory in their first match, they could be facing eighth-seeded Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, Taylor’s older brother, with a chance to reach the Winner’s Bracket Quarterfinals.
Yet lurking as the No. 2 seed on the men’s side is Olympic duo Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, the veteran team that captured four AVP events in 2018.
Who will play the spoiler? Watch for fifth-seeded Billy Allen and Stafford Slick, who teamed to win the 2017 Seattle Open. Or third-seeded Ed Ratledge and Roberto Rodriguez, who won in San Francisco last year.
Two new teams could also make a difference. Fourth-seeded Jeremy Casebeer and Chaim Schalk will debut their partnership on Stadium court at 12:30 p.m., only five minutes after No. 6 seeds Chase Budinger and Olympian Casey Patterson play their first match together.
In the double-elimination tournament, it pays to win early. A first-round loss could consign teams to play four matches on Saturday leading into Sunday’s Semifinals and Championship match.
Ross and Klineman, who won four AVP events in 2018 (including the last three) and have a pair of international titles on their resume, don’t exactly have the easiest route to the Winner’s Bracket Quarterfinals. They could run into fifth-seeded Kelly Claes and Brandie Wilkerson, another new team, or fourth-seeded Emily Day and Betsi Flint. Together, they’ve won two of the six AVP tournaments they’ve entered together.
At the other end of the bracket are second-seeded Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, who won twice together on the AVP Tour in 2018.
The tournament could get tricky in the second round for third-seeded Emily Stockman and Kelley Larsen, who are in their fifth AVP tournament together. They could run across No. 14 seeds Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, who are playing in only their third AVP tournament as a team.
Don’t let that fool you. The Canadian partners, with the 6-foot-5 Pavan and the defensive wizard Humana-Paredes, have won three international tournaments together and captured the Commonwealth Games title in Australia last year. In terms of ranking points, they are No. 6 in the world.