If you thought the AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open was an epic performance— and yes it was— brace yourselves.
Here comes Chicago for the The Championships, the tournament all of the players on the AVP Tour aim for after a raucous season. It’s Labor Day weekend, but it’s only labor if you think hanging out at Oak Street Beach on the Gold Coast is labor.
It will be the tournament that helps decide which teams get to go to Honolulu for the season-ending Hawaii Open. A number already have qualified, some of the usual suspects, and some you might not know. You’ll have to meet Jace Pardon and Karissa Cook, who not only won in Austin to punch their ticket to Hawaii but also did their country proud by winning the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru this month.
There are no international conflicts, either. Some of the top teams who have traveled to Europe in search of their Olympic dreams are back on the AVP for Chicago.
Some of the teams have also changed since the Tour started in Huntington Beach in May, and some have even changed since a week ago in the AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open.
Yet the most recent champions are intact.
That means Trevor Crabb and Reid Priddy, who stunned themselves as well as the rest of the world by winning in Manhattan, are back. Not to mention Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger, who won in Hermosa Beach then found themselves on the wrong end of a Crabb-Priddy miracle.
And why not have another April Ross and Alix Klineman match against Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes? The world’s top two teams have already met five times this season, including a three-set intrigue that captivated Manhattan Beach.
Somehow, Crabb and Priddy won a tournament after only three practices together. Thrown together by circumstance after they both played in Vienna with different partners, they managed to put their act together and get their names on the Manhattan Beach Pier. With his usual partner, Tri Bourne, Crabb splits the blocking duties. The 6-foot-4 Priddy, who brings a hammer from the right side, agreed to play on the left and take on some blocking duties of his own
“I felt really awkward. My blocking isn’t great but my net play is good,” Priddy said. “I have a good intuition on tight balls so I can see how the play is developing, almost better than in the back court. It was fun to kind of give him a breather, so we just wanted to manage the load. We were both pretty gassed.”
And welcome back to the continent for two teams who are going to be seeded in the top eight of the draw. Jake Gibb (a three-time Olympian) and Taylor Crabb return to see if they can add to the two AVP victories they notched.
And Stafford Slick and Billy Allen, who pulled off an epic victory over Brazilians Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Evandro Goncalves during the World Championships in Hamburg, will be a threat. We only use “epic” because they were behind, 14-11, in the third set of an elimination match. Uh, without the AVP freeze rule.
There is a consequential partner switch. Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos, who reached the semifinals in New York, have parted ways. Ricardo is a legend, having won gold, silver and bronze in his four Olympics appearances for Brazil.
With Ricardo out with a calf injury he suffered in Seattle, Rosenthal teamed with David Lee to take third in Hermosa after a heartbreaking three-set loss to Ryan Doherty and Miles Evans.
Rosenthal, a 39-year-old two-time Olympian, and the 37-year-old Lee, a two-time indoor Olympian (gold 2008, bronze 2016) are back together. Ricardo will play with veteran Ty Loomis.
“I want to be the guy teaching, calling plays, and being a leader. I feel like with Dave, that’s how it would be,” Rosenthal said. “Dave will block a lot of balls and has room to grow with his offensive game.”
There will be a lot to cheer for in Chicago.
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