AVP Abroad: Update from Vienna

It’s one thing to have to deal with the heartbreak of losing in beach volleyball—it’s entirely different when the heartbreak comes after a victory.

As Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman advanced to the quarterfinals, it came at the expense of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in an All-American round of 16 matchup in the A1 Major Vienna on Friday.

When Larsen and Stockman lost to Brazil’s Carolina Solberg and Maria Antonelli, it marked the farthest advancement of an AVP women’s team in the tournament.

But earlier in the day, another form of heartbreak set in when it was determined that Tri Bourne had suffered a fractured metacarpal in his right hand. As a result, he and Trevor Crabb had to forfeit their Round of 24 match to Germans Lars Fluggen and Nils Ehlers.

Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena are the last Americans standing in the $600,000 5-star event, and will meet Fluggen and Ehlers in the quarterfinals Friday.

The worst break of all

Fending off the 10,000 roaring Austrians who were cheering on Robin Seidl and Philipp Waller, Bourne and Crabb were celebrating their 22-20, 15-21, 16-14 victory in the elimination match from Pool D.

But as Crabb was up to block on the final point, Bourne scrambled to his right to cover the potential block. But the cut shot never cleared the net and Bourne stumbled into the referee stand.

He woke up the next morning with a large mound of swelling just above his right pinkie.

“Yeah, broke the bone on the last play of the match,” Bourne said, wearing a cumbersome protective splint. “I’m going to try to switch my flight, get home early and see what I have to do to get it healed up. Hopefully I can play in Rome (the World Tour Finals Sept. 4-8), but I doubt it. 

“Surgery’s always a possibility, but I’m going to wait to get home and talk to my doctor and figure it out.”

Bourne and Crabb entered the week as the No. 12-ranked team in the world, the highest among Americans in the chase for an Olympic qualifying spot.

“It’s frustrating,” Bourne said. “It’s just tough. It’s kind of confusing, like I don’t know what to think. We were in a good position, we had a really good draw, we put ourselves in a good spot to make a run here.

“I’m proud of the work we put in. I mostly just feel bad for Trevor. I know I could handle this stuff, but I don’t want to take anyone down with me. But that’s what being a team’s all about.”

Déjà vu all over again

A year ago in Vienna, Larsen and Stockman reached the quarterfinals but fell in two sets to Carolina and Maria. Meeting at the exact same point in the tournament on Friday, they took it to three sets but couldn’t break through against the Brazilians.

Larsen and Stockman had to win two matches in the qualifier to reach the main draw. They’re in the thick of the qualifying race to represent the U.S. in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“Right now our focus is one match at a time, one game at a time,” Stockman said. “That stuff is always going to be there, but you can’t let that affect what our journey is or how we’re going to come out and play.”

In June, Stockman and Larsen won their first AVP tournament together by defeating Claes and Sponcil in Seattle in a tense three-set match. That was the only time the teams had faced off against each other.

“We’re here to win and that’s what our mindset is going into this, regardless of who’s on the other side of the net,” Larsen said. “We’re stoked to play and whether it’s an American team or an international team, we’re ready.”

Time for a homecoming

The tournament’s No. 1 seed, April Ross and Alix Klineman, rolled through their first two matches before falling to defending Vienna champions, Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermannova in a wild 21-13, 19-21, 16-14 decision and had to settle for a ninth-place finish.

That’s the bad news. The good news for the AVP is that Ross and Klineman have established themselves as a premier team in the world and will forgo the Moscow 4-star event to play in the Manhattan Beach Open Aug. 16-18.

“It’s a stinger to lose that one and go out this early in a 5-star,” Ross said. “More than anything, this last month and a half has been a huge stride for me and Alix. A couple of matches we wish we could have pulled out, obviously, but to have any regrets about how we’ve done is short-sighted. We’re very happy with our finishes and how we’ve played overall. 

“After the last couple of tournaments before this one, we definitely have a bigger target on our back, but that’s great. People are going to play as hard as they can against us and it’ll make us better, and we have to show up for every match and be ready to go. It’s not a bad thing—it’s flattering.”

So they’ll fly home to defend their title in Manhattan and take part in all the included festivities.

“We decided to play Manhattan,” Ross said. “I’d rather be home for the AVP, Manhattan’s such a huge tournament, such an amazing prize, Alix’s hometown, my family can come. We want to be there for the Pier ceremony because we won last year, and it’s Alix’s first time getting her name on the Pier. To be a part of that ceremony is huge, and we haven’t played that many AVPs, so we’re excited for that.”

Ross and Klineman have won the two AVP tournaments they’ve entered in 2019, Huntington Beach and New York.

A new look to the AVP

Along with Ross and Klineman, Dalhausser and Lucena will also skip Moscow to defend their Manhattan title. They’ve played in three AVP events and captured the title in New York.

Manhattan can also welcome the world champions back to the AVP. Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, who defeated Ross and Klineman in the FIVB World Championships in Hamburg in July while competing for Canada, will enter their second AVP event of the year. Those two also met in the Huntington Beach Open final, with Ross and Klineman winning.

Brandie Wilkerson, who also competes for Canada on the World Tour with Heather Bansley, will team with Sara Hughes for Manhattan. Wilkerson was the tournament’s runner-up in 2017 with Nicole Branagh and has competed in two AVP events this season, Huntington Beach (with Claes) and New York (with Brooke Sweat).