The AVP Phoenix Championships this weekend, September 23rd and 24th, culminates the AVP Gold Series in a big way. Six teams per gender, single elimination format, every match played on one court; it’ll be a gladiator fight to the finish. Let’s meet the teams.
#1 – Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb
Heading into Phoenix, Bourne and Trevor have the most points and wins to their name. They started the season slowly, taking a few big hits internationally and winning their first AVP halfway through the season in Ft. Lauderdale. Since then, they’ve won three of four AVPs, the final two being Gold Series. Bourne/Crabb are riding high on confidence. They didn’t lose a set in Ft. Lauderdale, won the biggest and best event of the year in MBO, and then saved a match point in a three-set barn burner against Trevor’s little brother Taylor in the Chicago Final. Tri and Trevor are feeling good.
#1 – Sara Hughes/Kelley Kolinske
Unsurprisingly, the two #1 seeds are 2022’s MBO winners. Winning in Manhattan Beach takes every last drop of talent and grit from a team; there are no fluke MBO Champs. Hughes and Kolinske found their stride in the Gold Series, taking 3rd, 1st, and 5th. They were the only team heading into the final Gold Series event who had secured a top 2 seed in Phoenix, guaranteeing them a bye into the Semifinals. Having already won the biggest event of the year, Hughes and Kolinske are well positioned to claim the Championship trophy. But five more teams don’t care whose name is on the Pier.
#2 – Terese Cannon/Sarah Sponcil
One of those teams is Cannon/Sponcil, who has proved the most consistent Gold Series team on the Women’s side. Their 2nd in Atlanta and 3rd in MBO earned them a Phoenix spot, but their consecutive 3rd place in Chicago secured the all-important bye. Sponcil/Cannon had a mediocre start to the 2022 season, falling out of the Top 16 internationally and taking a 5th in their debut AVP. But their first team win in Hermosa Beach rocketed these two potential AVP stars to bonafide royalty. Plus – Sponcil is from Phoenix and still very connected to the city. The Flying Squirrel may have a little extra oomph in her hometown.
#2 – Theo Brunner/Chaim Schalk
If the #1 seeds are all about the MBO, the #2 seeds claim Hermosa Beach and consistency as their defining traits. Before their uncharacteristic 9th in Chicago, Brunner/Schalk made four Finals in a row and won Hermosa. They reigned supreme as the #1 seed for most of the season until their rivals Bourne/Crabb took the cake in MBO. With so much Finals experience and a bye into Saturday, Brunner/Schalk are hungry for their second win and a little redemption against the #1 seeds. As the only two preexisting Men’s teams to return to the AVP in 2022, it’s no surprise their solidified chemistry brought them atop the ranks.
#3 – Taylor Crabb/Taylor Sander
Speaking of chemistry – the Taylors have found it and then some. This duo has been friends for years; their history helped them overcome the challenges of transitioning from indoor to beach impressively fast. They’re not dissimilar to the A-Team, another set of friends – one indoor, one beach – who teamed up and found success. Lots of it. The Taylors have been a force on Tour since they teamed up, but they’re visibly improving every event. Sander honed what made him so unstoppable on the indoor side – namely, his heavy arm and killer serve. Crabb remained the steady, lights-out defender he’s always been. They’re due for a win.
#3 – Kelly Cheng/Betsi Flint
As another proud Phoenician, Betsi Flint is more excited than most that the AVP is back in Phoenix. She and partner Kelly Cheng have had a great season, winning in New Orleans and an international event this summer. Though they suffered a devastating come-from-behind defeat in Manhattan Beach, they recovered well and took care of business in Chicago. When this team is on, there is no stopping them. Their fire, celebrations, and fight are so fun to watch. With the stakes this high in Betsi’s former backyard, we’re sure to see much more of that competitive fire.
#4 – Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss
The young guns are the only Women’s team to win two AVPs this year. They bookended their regular season nicely, winning the first in Austin and the most recent in Chicago. Their season has been up and down; they largely flew under the radar after their loss in the New Orleans Final. But the LSU Tigers returned with a vengeance in Chicago, winning three three-setters on a rainy Sunday to take the trophy. They’re taking that glory into Phoenix. Plus – the Championships will be indoor on shallow sand. The shorter Nuss will have more offensive tools at her disposal in the jumpers’ sand. Look out.
#4 – Paul Lotman/Miles Partain
Another player who may really like the indoor experience is Miles Partain. As the UCLA setter and one of the best indoor players in the college game right now, he will have some fun in the shallow Phoenix sand. He’ll be able to do more of what makes him so good; quick jump sets and fakes are easier to execute in fabricated indoor environments. Partain is one of those players that if he’s on, there’s no stopping him. And with the immovable steadiness of Lotman, this #4-seed has all the potential in the world.
#5 – Phil Dalhausser/Casey Patterson
Another complete team with immovable steadiness is the veteran duo of Dalhausser/Patterson. Dalhausser won two AVPs in 2022, one with Andy Benesh and the other with Patterson. He’s the best player to play the game and hasn’t slowed down. Patterson will also thrive in the jumpers’ sand, but I’m guessing he’s most excited by the spectacle of playing in a huge arena. Dalhausser/Patterson are a team who, if they believe they’re going to win, likely will.
#5 – Julia Scoles/Geena Urango
I miss this team! We haven’t really seen them in action since their spellbinding win in Atlanta. Scoles was sick in MBO, so they struggled to do well. Then she was in Brazil for an international event during Chicago. I won’t lie: with a 1st and a 13th, I wasn’t so sure we’d see Scoles/Urango in Phoenix. But I also can’t lie: I am stoked they made it. They’re a fun team with impressive athleticism and potential for greatness. It’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back after time apart.
#6 – Zana Muno/Sarah Pavan
As the only team who’s never played together before, Muno/Pavan have the elusive element of surprise. They’re both incredible players – Muno, a rising star, and Pavan, a proven powerhouse. Muno has shown playing with a Canadian blocker works for her. She earned the spot with Brandie Wilkerson and then wisely chose Pavan as a substitute when Brandie couldn’t make it. This new team’s biggest hurdle will be chemistry, but the honeymoon phase has turned out more than a few winners.
#6 – Chase Budinger/Troy Field
This team’s stellar performance in Chicago took them from just out to safely into Phoenix. Though they only earned 7th place, they had to best some elite teams in Schalk/Brunner and Dalhausser/Patterson to earn it. Those wins helped them beat out Andy Benesh/Miles Evans and Jake Dietrich/Hagen Smith for the 6th spot in Phoenix. Their last-second berth makes them the underdog with nothing to lose. Plus – Budinger is no stranger to winning in the Footprint Center. He played for the Phoenix Suns in 2016. How’s that for an unexpected homecourt advantage?
With only six teams fighting for the top spot, it really is anyone’s Championship to win. Get your tickets for all fourteen matches here. Or catch all the action live on YouTube starting at 6pm MST on Friday evening!