With the Austin AVP Entry List set, I cannot help but speculate about who will shine this season. We have almost all new teams, and they all have a lot to prove. Here are the Austin entry lists, starting with the Men:
Remember: these teams are set in stone. The qualification process for Austin is officially closed.
Instead of having an on-site Qualifier like years previous, last week’s Panama City AVP Next tournament fed top four teams into the Austin tournament. This means play will start on Friday for everyone. All the athletes will be equally rested and mentally prepared for Main Draw action. Can’t wait to see how that affects the results.
I’m most excited, though, to see how all our new teams will shake out. We have a smidge of data now from the two FIVB tournaments in Mexico and the Panama City AVPNext. Let’s start with the Men.
Internationally, none of the Men’s teams have gone further than 9th place (which is still incredibly impressive, mind you), so there’s no clear standout there. We’ve had a few USA v. USA matches that have been fun. Chaim and Theo beat Chase Budinger and Troy Field in the Game to Get In in Rosarito. A Norceca Qualifier took place a few weeks ago where a lot of these guys went head to head. The most notable team were the winners- Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander—who beat Lucena/Benesh and Budinger/Field on their way to qualification!
The Taylors have had a wild ride. In the first Challenger event in Tlaxcala (don’t ask me to pronounce that), both of their Qualifier matches went into overtime. They looked solid in the first, Sander saving a crucial match point with a stuff block. Unfortunately, they then lost The Game to Get In to the very talented Brazilian duo – Saymon/Bruno. The Taylors were then the first team out of the Elite 16 Qualifier (they still traveled to Mexico just in case). Lucky for them, they used that for fuel in the Norceca Quali.
The Panama City Event gave us some familiar names who really showed up. Mark Burik and Dave Palm are no strangers to the Main Draw, as well as Raffe Paulis, Jeff Samuels, and Lev Priima. I haven’t seen Marty Lorenz in action for a few years, but he used to be a Main Draw staple.
I have high hopes for the level of play this year. I’ve already spoken about the two returning teams (Tri/Trevor and Chaim/Theo) and Andy/Nick. In other news – Chase and Troy are two of the most promising talents on Tour, while Casey Patterson and Ed Ratledge bring helpful veteran experience. Billy Allen and Jeremy Casebeer will be explosive but steady.
Logan Webber and John Hyden are my dark horse team of the year. Young Logan won the stacked Panama City tournament with Scottish Seain Cook. He already signed up with Hyden for Austin, so he and Cook won’t accept that bid. But it shows a lot of promise that Logan can win. He’s improving daily, and alongside the tried and true Hyden – that team can go anywhere.
The same idea goes for Taylor and Taylor. They’re right on the edge of the AVP Main Draw, so they have to show up in Austin to stay in the fray. Their Norceca Qualifier win said a lot. Sander just needs a few more matches under his belt before finding his sand legs. From there – the sky’s the limit.
Now for the ladies.
Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes are sitting pretty right now. They have the most points and experience of any team by far, and they’re the reigning World Champs. Pretty solid start to the season.
The Canadians, along with April Ross/Emily Day and Kelley Kolinske/Sara Hughes, earned 5th place in the Rosarito FIVB. Betsi Flint/Kelly Cheng finished the best of anyone on our beach, making it to the Semis and ending with 4th place. That’s a solid showing for our AVP ladies.
All eight of these athletes are used to winning. They have a slew of international and AVP titles to their names. I bet these teams remain at the top of the entry list all season.
The other Austin team who played in the Rosarito Main Draw hasn’t had the same quick start. Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon are 1-4 on the year internationally but feeling good about their prospects long-term. They’re both so young and full of potential. Plus – Terese plays really well on the AVP, which is a totally different beast from FIVBs.
Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss had a great start to 2022, winning an FIVB Futures Event in Australia. They’re the new, hot thing on Tour, and I’m here for it. Lilli and Larissa continue to amaze, winning the Panama City AVPNext. In their last three big AVP events, they’ve finished 3rd, 2nd, and 1st. That trajectory could not be any better. I expect great things from the Brazilians.
Sarah Schermerhorn and Corinne Quiggle have also had an impressive start. They Qualified for the first Challenger event in Tlaxcala and then beat fellow Americans Sponcil/Cannon in a tight three-setter to earn 9th place. The array of teams below them is an all-new batch of fun partnerships that have the element of surprise on their side. Looking forward to seeing who comes to win.
My Most Improved lady from 2021 – Molly Turner – and her new partner Jess Gaffney are in a great position to succeed. They won two barn burners in Panama City to secure their spot in the Austin Main Draw, and they’re looking great.
The final team to get in on the Women’s side is also on my radar. Savvy Simo broke out on the AVP last year with a couple of Main Draw appearances. She’s a spunky little Bruin with experience and talent. Her partner Toni Rodriguez has garnered a lot of buzz. She’s a quick and clever blocker from LSU who’s currently in Brazil with Zana Muno trying her hand on the international side. If their heads are in it, I think these young, untested newbies can go far.
Okay – I’m done with the conjecture (for now). Honestly, I may be the person most excited for this season. Since I began writing for the AVP in January 2020, there have only been six professional events. Two and a half years; six events. This year I get SIXTEEN in six months. Ah! I can stop predicting who will be good and start reporting it. Just can’t wait.
May 6th is just around the corner.