I was a sophomore at Grand Canyon University when I first realized what the AVP was. Granted, I’m from Illinois, so professional beach volleyball didn’t sneak its way into everyday conversation. I remember hearing about the Huntington Beach tour stop; I quickly got a group of my friends to drive with me from Arizona to watch my favorite player, Casey Patterson, in person. I remember looking at Stadium Court from the highest row in the stands and thinking, “That will be me.”
That’s when my AVP dreams began.
I started following tournament updates, live scoring, and watching the games on YouTube. I found myself in class, not paying attention to my professor but trying to figure out how Brooke Sweat baited April Ross into hitting a cutty.
I was obsessed with the chess match that is beach volleyball.
After my sophomore year, I begged my mom to let me live in California for the summer to train. My coach at GCU, Kristen Batt-Rohr, gave me tips on what to do and who to train with when I got there. I spent months leading up to summer looking for an apartment to live in while I trained with the USA National Team. My mom was not happy with the idea of not coming home to Illinois for summer break, but she knew this wasn’t something I could let go of.
I chased that Stadium Court feeling.
In the summer of 2016, I experienced my first qualifier in the AVP Seattle. I lost to my girl Kim Smith in the first round. That was the first time I experienced all the feelings of losing in a qualifier. Although we lost, I was just happy to be there.
The atmosphere, the setup, the vibe—I wanted more.
I spent the rest of my summer breaks renting out rooms in California to train before heading back to college each year. I kept getting better. I kept training with as many people as I could. I kept asking more coaches to work with me. I wanted to be well-rounded and well-known. As someone not from California, it was weird coming into the South Bay bubble as a teenager in college. Looking back now, those summers were dedicated to making a name for myself.
During my senior year, I remember texting my mom something like, “What would you do if I moved to California after I finish college?” She responded with a HARD no. But after weeks of convincing her that I had jobs lined up, a place to live, and a game plan, she had to let go. I graduated in April of 2018 and packed up my life in my tiny car and headed straight for Hermosa Beach.
I worked six jobs at once when I first got to California. I practiced and lifted in the mornings and then went straight to work. I worked at the front desk of a local gym (the Bay Club in Redondo Beach), as a hostess, a coach, at a smoothie place, and for a local granola company. Sometimes I worked three jobs in one day. I was a professional at running from job to job and making it work. My parents told me if I wanted to live in another state, I had to do things on my own (because “I could always move home for free”… lol).
I never doubted my move. Although I was struggling to make it work, I knew this is what I wanted, and it would pay off. 2018 was my first big year on the AVP—I qualified four times out of the six tournaments I played. I also placed 7th in Hermosa alongside Cassie House (and cried my eyes out). Every single win felt so personal because of the sacrifices I was making. In 2019, the Bay Club gave me a promotion for a full-time sales position in their Membership Department. The commitment was greater, but the pay was higher. I could finally quit all of my other jobs (yes!). I was concerned that it would cut into my training times and alter what I moved here for, but thankfully they’re helping me make it work. I finally got to a financial place where I was comfortable. I continued to train regularly and played in every event I wanted to. I even moved into my own place by myself and bought a kitten. He’s my everything.
Things were falling into place.
In 2019 at AVP Huntington Beach, I stepped onto Stadium Court for the first time as a professional athlete. I took a deep breath as I sat in the players’ box and heard the announcer Mark Schuermann call out my name. I remember listening in awe to this exact moment in 2015 when I watched Casey Patterson play. Same Stadium Court, same beach in Huntington. I ran to the end line and looked around to take it all in. I knew my mom was watching on Amazon at home in Chicago. I knew she’d be emotional as she watched me live out the moment I had worked for for years.
2019 was my best year on tour as Brittany Tiegs and I placed 5th in AVP Seattle. From there on out, I was earning top 10 finishes next to my amazing partners. I also just found out that I’m featured on the AVP website as one of their athletes (the young teenager in me is screaming). Still to this day, every single game, every tournament, every win is special. I look back at what I’ve done to make this dream of mine work, and I couldn’t be prouder or happier with the choices I’ve made. As cliche as it is, you really can achieve anything you put your mind to. As a young Chicagoan that was cut from her high school indoor team and was a walk-on on her college beach volleyball team, I can confirm that anything is possible if you work your butt off to achieve it. My favorite quote ever is, “What do you want for yourself and are you trying?” Are you doing the right steps to get to where you want to go? Nothing Is overnight, but everything is obtainable.
There are still a lot of goals I haven’t achieved yet, but that’s the fun of it all—the chase.