The 2-day Chicago Qualifier just wrapped up at North Avenue Beach. Hundreds of AVP athletes grinded for a chance to graduate to the Oak Street Beach courts just a stone’s throw from North Ave. We had one for the ages down there, a day full of epic matchups, fiery moments, and playing through adversity.
Larissa and Lili are back in the Main Draw after a dominant performance against Falyn Fanoimoana and Geena Urango. In a match that could have easily been in the Main Draw, Larissa proved once again why she’s such a legend. In a long rally, the 5’9″ Larissa stuff blocked the 6’3″ Falyn and celebrated in her face. The crowd loved it, myself included. Falyn, a show woman herself, played into it and promised Larissa she wouldn’t have another. So good. Lili played phenomenally well, also, getting more than a few stuff blocks and setting juicy transition balls. Excited to see these two back in the Main Draw and likely upsetting teams left and right.
Devon Burki and John Schwengel finished epically strong to claim their spot in the Main Draw; they’re the only team to have made it through both days of the Qualifier in 2021. After winning the first set against David Lee and Kyle Friend, Burki and Schwengel got down 12-18 (partly because of a net violation call that didn’t go their way and rattled Burki). Down 6 points, they went on a 5-0 run, chipping away at the lead with a few defensive conversions and aces. After the side switch, they allowed Lee and Friend only one side out point. Burki and Schwengel closed out the second set and the match 21-19 after one of the most epic Qualifier comebacks of the year.
Twins Annika Rowland and Teegan Van Gunst had a thrilling comeback of their own in the third set of their match against Delaney Mewhirter and Sara Putt. That win afforded them the Game to Get In against Sheila Shaw and Kenzie Ponnet. The twins went to work, winning in two 21-18, 21-14. These two are remarkably in sync (obviously) and can hammer the ball. They could do very well in their first Main Draw of 2021.
But I’d say the most incredible story of the day was Piotr Marciniak and Chase Frishman’s resilience. Piotr has had finger problems since I can remember, and his first set provided another potentially tournament-ending injury. After cleaning up the blood, bandaging his hands, and forfeiting the first set, he and Chase rallied and won the match.
Piotr played the rest of the day with two bandaged hands; he received every serve and beat excellent teams. I honestly have no idea how they pulled that off. Well, yes I do. Chase and Piotr are both really good and commonly auto-Main Draw. They rested in that knowledge and took care of the ball when they could. The grit is inspiring, and I’m praying that Piotr’s hands are healthy enough to make a deep run this weekend.
Macy Jerger and Devon Newberry, a new team, played with a ton of energy and excitement and are headed to Oak Street Beach. Macy’s girlfriend and former AVP player, Bre Moreland, is their coach. It’s super fun watching those three work together. Chelsea Rice and Carly Kan are also a brand new team, having practiced only three times together before the Quali. Something about Chicago works for Carly, though; her other Main Draw appearance was in Chicago 2019.
Miles Partain and Paul Lotman handled their Game to Get In. They, too, are fans of Chicago, having earned a 5th place in 2019. More than anything, that tournament introduced the AVP fans to the wonder that is young Partain. Let’s see if that Chicago magic will stretch through this weekend.
Lev Priima and Jake Landel qualified for the third and final time; they’re the only team to have played and won all three 2021 Qualifiers. That’s incredibly impressive, especially because this year’s Qualifiers were smaller and gnarlier than ever. Well done, gentlemen.
Weather proved perfect the last two days – sunny and mid-70s with the notorious Chicago wind changing the game (just ask Devon Burki). The weekend looks gorgeous, as well, with a low chance of rain on Saturday. We’ve had monsoons in the past—rain so bad that we had to postpone match play and shelter under tents all over the beach while waiting it out. Glad that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Fun note: if April Ross/Alix Klineman and Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss both win their first matches, they’ll once again play each other in the second round of the Winners Bracket. That would take place tomorrow afternoon at 1:30, so get to Stadium Court early to stake your spot.
Also of note – Ricardo is out for the weekend, so John Hyden picked up David Lee as his partner. Players who lose in the Game to Get In are eligible to be picked up in the case of sickness or injury. Hyden and Lee are both indoor Olympians turned beach guys, and there’s a lot of firepower on that team. Lee is also likely heated from his loss today, so he’ll come to Oak Street Beach with a chip on his shoulder and nothing to lose.
We have our brackets, match times, and crew ready. You bring the sunblock and energy. Let’s have some fun.