Reminiscing about Austin, TX


With just weeks before the first AVP Pro Series stop in Austin, Texas, I’ve been feeling exceptionally sentimental about all the memories and moments in that city.

Remember when the eleventh-hour partnership of Taylor Crabb and Tim Bomgren made it to the 2018 Finals? Or that year when Sarah Sponcil, still in college, had her breakout tournament with Lauren Fendrick. Or the time Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb lost their first match of 2019 to the qualifying team of Paul Lotman and Gabe Ospina in a 1:13 three-setter on Stadium Court. But then they marched through the Contender’s Bracket and won the whole thing.

That same year, Jace Pardon and Karissa Cook came out of nowhere and took the title, both of their first and only. The year before, Alix Klineman and April Ross got their first-ever AVP win as a team. Of course, they went on to win 11 more together. And the year before that, I played my first-ever Stadium Court match. The only person who likely remembers that is my dad. He sat in the stands as ominous rain clouds and lightning gathered, and then he sprinted with my partner Cici Zhang and me to a safe place while we waited out the four-hour lightning delay.

Austin has been known for its less-than-desirable weather in previous years. That 2017 delay was just the beginning. In 2018, we had another interruption where all the players huddled in the Athletes’ Tent while we watched water pool around the entrance. An hour after the last lightning strike, we were cleared to play. The rain, however, was still very present. I remember watching two teams I mentioned previously (Tim Bomgren/Taylor Crabb & Jeremy Casebeer/Reid Priddy) battle in a flash flood. The hour-long match finished 22-20, 15-21, 15-13, and sent Tim to his first-ever Final.

Of course, when it’s not raining, it’s 95 and humid. But it doesn’t matter. Austin is still one of the most fun stops on Tour. The McKibbins always throw a Saturday rager on the infamous 6th Street in downtown Austin. Highly recommend visiting 6th. The city closes off the road to cars on weekend nights, turning the whole block into one big party. Barton Springs offers a cool, fresh dip when you’re done for the day. Not to mention, there’s a spot where dogs are allowed. There’s nothing cuter than a frolicking pup. And a purple margarita from Baby A’s will change your life.

As will the barbeque, breakfast tacos, juice, and coffee shops. There’s a bridge where thousands of bats sleep the day away; if you go at nightfall, they all wake up and zip out simultaneously. It’s eerily cool. With one million breweries, restaurants, Top Golf, and other fun locales, the tournament is just one of the many fun elements of the Austin stop.

But the best part? The crowd. So many fan groups live either locally or close by – the Sand Wannabes, No Scrubs, the Wannabes and more. The stands are raucous partiers who know volleyball well. Torrential rain or punishing shine, these hardcore AVP fanatics are there from the first serve to the final kill. That match that Paul and Gabe won over Jake and Taylor was the first of the tournament, at 9am on Friday. The stands were so packed, I had to flash my players’ badge just to be allowed in.

The Austin fans know the game. They were rooting just as hard for Alix and April as for the Qualifier teams who earned 5th place that year – Kerri Schuh/Janelle Allen & Sarah Day/Nicolette Martin. Side note: Sarah Day was a new mom; she was literally breastfeeding her child in between matches. It was that day that I realized moms are real-life superheroes.

Anyway… Austin loves volleyball. They love Tiers 1 through 4. A few up-and-comers are from Austin, players like Peter Canolle, Jen Keddy, and Katie Dickens. Tons of Austin locals enter the tournament; not only are they talented players, but also the stands are packed with their relentless, loud friends. My Colts visor got a lot of harmless vitriol when I played a local Austin team in The Game to Get In one year. Glad Peyton Manning wasn’t there to hear the slurs.

This year’s AVP stop will be as rowdy and exciting as ever. Fans are buzzing on level 10 because we’re back in their city. Plus, with no Stadium Court, the athletes are more accessible than normal. Fans will be mere feet from their favorite athletes from start to finish. There’s going to be a real old-school vibe to Austin. Shoulder to shoulder with people who love the game as much as the next person. After years of Covid rules and regulations, that sounds blissfully idyllic.

There’s plenty to look forward to competition-wise, as well. With almost all new teams, each match will be a learning experience for both the athletes and the fans. Fans will establish favorites. Rivalries will emerge. Former partners will meet for the first time.

A bit of sad news: April Ross pulled out of Austin due to a nagging injury. Her partner Emily Day picked up Emily Stockman in her stead. Bummer April won’t be there, but seeing the two most ripped women on Tour play together will be entertaining.

For all the other new partnerships and unsubstantiated predictions, go here. To see the Entry Lists/begin making your at-home bracket, go here. To stay updated on all the goings-on, follow us on Instagram and sign up for our newsletter!

Category: Current Season, Events, Pro

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