Updates for AVP’s 2020 season and the COVID-19 implications.

AVP 2019: Greatest Men’s Tournament Runs

When I covered the Ladies a few days ago, there were so many teams to choose from for the Greatest Run of 2019. Though the Men’s side had a few outstanding performances in 2019 (including John Hyden and Theo Brunner almost winning the Hawaii final after qualifying), the tourney run that sticks out most in my mind is Bill Kolinske and Eric Beranek’s MBO performance. 

This was Eric and Bill’s first tournament together. Eric had played with many partners over the years and qualified a few times, but had only won a few Main Draw matches and his best finish was a 13th. Bill had made the choice to focus his career elsewhere for two years leading up to MBO 2019; this was his first AVP since Chicago 2016. They were an unexpected and unknown force that ravaged top seeds and veterans on their way to Championship Sunday.

Of their eleven matches, their best was the eighth. With that being said, their next three matches are all three-setters and full of drama. If you like what you see in this 9th-place match, watch their 7th, 5th, and 3rd place games for more entertainment. 

Sean Rosenthal/Ricardo Santos vs. Billy Kolinske/Eric Beranek: 9th-Place Match MBO

Amazon Prime 2019 Manhattan Beach Open, Day 2, Court 1, Part 1

First serve: 4:17:46

To make it to this point, Billy and Eric won three in the Qualifier, lost their first match in the Main Draw, and had to win three more matches. They would end up playing eleven matches over three days at the 2019 MBO and earning a heavily-weighted third place (MBO is a part of the AVP Gold Series which offers more money and more points). 

The whole match is pretty fun, especially hearing Rosie’s Raiders heckling Beranek and his hometown crowd. They’re both local boys – Rosie from Redondo and Eric from Manhattan. The veterans are heavily favored, but the new duo wasn’t phased by their Olympic opponents. 

Eric and Billy make an interesting strategy change in the middle of the first set – they’re serving Rosie and actually get a few points on him. Then they inexplicably switch to Ricardo. Two points later, at 17-15, Ricardo goes down and tweaks his ankle. Understandably, Ricardo gets every single serve after that point. But you have to wonder why they switched before that. Did they see Ricardo was already fatigued or favoring one ankle? 

The second set is point-for-point until Billy and Eric tie it for 15-15 on a great defensive play. A fire lights inside of Eric. That point is basically where they won the match. Even though Rosie and Ricardo keep it close, their energy is no match for the youngins. A whale out of bounds, an overpass, a missed serve, and a block all lead to a third set. 

I watched this from Club AVP where I could see Stadium Court and Court 1 simultaneously. I was keeping tabs on both matches, as I often do on a Saturday when I’ve found myself out of the tournament. During the third set though, I parked myself right on the corner to watch the finale. When there’s a ten-person deep crowd surrounding a tight third set and you find yourself 30 feet above the fray with a margarita in hand – you have to watch. I don’t remember who I was rooting for; I just remember loving the Olympics legends vs. the hometown qualifier in Eric Beranek (who also happens to be my neighbor). 

Matches like this make me profoundly miss the game. It’s such an honor to play against your heroes, and an even greater thrill to beat them. 

Honorable mention: Billy and Eric’s MBO 5th-place match against Jeremy Casebeer and Chaim Schalk is also really fun, including the unbelievably bad call on match point. Check it out: Day 3, Court 1, Part 1.