With less than a month (!!!) until the first AVP Pro Series event, the athletes and their fans are gearing up for a summer of fun, sun, and sand in all the crevices.
The 2022 AVP season will host almost wholly new duos. Of the 24 teams already in the Austin Main Draw, only five are returning partnerships.
Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb
Chaim Schalk/Theo Brunner
Sarah Pavan/Melissa Humana-Paredes
Lili Maestrini/Larissa Maestrini
Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss
Because of our one million new teams, this season promises a lot of old partner drama. My favorite.
The one I am most excited to see? Olympians Sarah Sponcil and Kelly (Claes) Cheng. Fans loved watching their unorthodox and extremely athletic game. There was nothing better than Sponcil’s layout digs setting Kelly up for an on-two pokey.
Team Slaes (gonna miss that) is the only Olympic team that had a chance to play together again and chose not to. Phil retired from international play leaving Nick to pick up Andy Benesh. Jake Gibb retired altogether, so Taylor Crabb recruited Taylor Sander from the indoor side. And while Alix Klineman is taking some time off for her shoulder to recover, April Ross is teaming up with Emily Day.
Sponcil and Kelly called it quits late last year for reasons unknown. Sponcil and Terese Cannon committed before the holidays, and Kelly and Betsi Flint followed shortly after the new year. The two have yet to play each other in mock or international play. I’m really hoping the first time is on the AVP, and hoping even more for fireworks.
It’ll also be interesting to see Betsi Flint vs. Emily Day. They’ve been partners for years, notched four AVP titles together, and seemingly began the season as a team. One day, I woke up and Betsi and Kelly Cheng were announcing their partnership while rumors of Emily and April were running amok. Betsi and Emily are both strong players with few weaknesses, but you better believe these two smart competitors will exploit any known flaw to get the win.
I was really hoping for a rematch of one of the two longest Women’s sets in history, featuring our two Olympic teams versus the young standouts from Lousiana. Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss are just going to have to find new victims; neither team they took to 39 and 40 last year are still intact. Maybe once Alix is healthy, she and April can find their way together again. Would love to see that one run back.
We actually don’t have a chance for a rematch on the ladies’ side at all this year! Our three returning teams never matched up in 2021. The ladies are all new blood and new potential rivalries.
The Men, though only boasting two preexisting teams, are bringing plenty of baggage. Last summer, Chaim Schalk and Theo Brunner had all but sealed their fate in the MBO finals until Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb reared back and took the three-set win and eventual title. Though Chaim and Theo got big revenge in Chicago two weeks later (winning 21-10. 21-15), there have to be plenty of lingering hard feelings.
And regardless of who their partners are, I always look forward to a Crabb Boil. Taylor’s playing with an untested new beach player in Taylor Sander, but seeing as how they recently took down big names like Nick Lucena/Andy Benesh and Chase Budinger/Troy Field in the recent Norceca Qualifier, this team is looking to make a big splash this year. Can’t wait to see the first staredown during the (hopefully) many Crabb Boils of 2022.
Of all the former partner matchups on the Men’s side, I’m most excited for Chase Budinger vs. Casey Patterson. Their game is sure to have a little friendly trash talk. To be fair, Casey trash-talks everyone. But it’s even better when there’s a previous relationship there.
Whether we’re in for former partner drama, new partnership bonding, or sibling rivalries – I just can’t wait for this summer. See you all before you know it.