Unofficial Awards: Biggest Surprises

The 2021 AVP season served a few WOW moments that are hard to quantify in award form. Ergo: My Biggest Surprise(s) of the Season. As per usual, there are a few on my mind. 

Trevor Crabb guaranteeing an MBO win on social media and promptly delivering. For the second time. 

These are the sports stories I love. Trevor – an inflammatory player, to say the least – is the only person I know who’d have the gall to publicly claim the crown of the most coveted tournament around. Before Trevor’s first MBO victory in 2019, he hadn’t won a single AVP. There seemed a curse around him – a player of his caliber would usually have a few titles to his name. This level of confidence is hard to come by.

Since MBO 2019, Trevor has won two more AVPs. And what’s more, he guaranteed both of them in gutsy (some would say cocky) Instagram posts just days before the tournament. Who does that? First was the Champions Cup Series in 2020, a 3-event block that Phil and Nick had been dominating. Trevor and Tri hadn’t even made a Final yet, but Trevor must have felt a win in his bones. Few of us believed it possible until the Hawaiians showed up at that tournament. With a chip on their shoulder and a lot to prove, they took down giants. 

This year’s MBO was no cakewalk to the title, either. Everyone was gunning for their name on the Pier, digging deep to play their best volleyball. It looked like Trevor’s promise would be unfounded when he was down 12-16 in the 2nd set of the Semifinal. Only 5 points more, and Theo and Chaim would crush Trevor’s dream and prove him wrong. 

I won’t detail that comeback again because A. I already have here and B. I don’t want texts from Chaim and Theo asking why I can’t let this go. Just know Trevor backed up the bold prediction with his play. For the record, I’m not surprised that Trevor Crabb won a tournament this year, but it’s shocking that he’s 2 for 2 in calling his victories. Can’t wait for the next. 

Side Note: Since Trevor broke his winning curse, he’s won 3 of the last 9 AVPs (including that 2019 MBO victory). That’s more than any other male player (Phil/Nick have 2 wins; Jake/Taylor have 2; Casey/Chase have 2). 

April and Alix losing exactly ONE set all season. 

Greatness is unsurprising from our Gold Medalists. But I wouldn’t have bet on them only losing one set all year. It is remarkably hard not to lose a set here and there. You’re prepping for AVP matches in just a few hours, scouting teams you may never have played before or who look wildly different from the last time you faced them. Not losing a set means you are always on, never missing a beat or letting yourself accept a slump. That’s nearly impossible to maintain, especially against great teams. 

Furthermore – the one set April and Alix lost was in their first match of the season. After missing Atlanta, still soaking in the Olympic glory and unable to make the quick turnaround, the A-Team lost the 2nd set of their first match to Geena Urango and Falyn Fanoimoana, 15-21. They then turned around and won the decisive 3rd set, 15-9. 

After that, the only set they were really in danger of losing for the rest of the season was their 40-38 game against Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss. The A-Team did not look panicked or flustered; they stuck to their game plan and powered through to pen their name in the history books once again. In their next 18 sets, only 4 of them were decided by a 2-point margin. So again, not surprised by the fact they dominated, but floored at how total the domination was. 

Two quick honorable mentions for surprising moments or facts before we get into my Biggest Surprise of the year. 

  • Billy Allen and Andy Benesh entered the three tournaments as the 12/10/7 seeds, respectively. After earning 5th place in Atlanta, they made the Semifinals in the final two tournaments of the year. Very impressive. 
  • Many fans were stunned by Larissa and Lili’s 2021 success. Though they’re household names in Brazil, many AVP fans hadn’t heard of them before. All they knew was a low-seeded foreign team was wrecking house on the Women’s side in the final two tournaments. 

Even with these spectacular and unpredictable 2021 moments and facts in mind – there is still one obvious shock of the season. 

Rookies Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss win their first AVP tournament together in Atlanta. 


I have written so much about this, so there’s really not much left to say. In summary: 

  • Atlanta was Taryn Kloth’s first AVP ever; it was the 6th for Kristen. 
  • Taryn and Kristen entered Atlanta as the #4-seed in the Qualifier. 
  • They easily moved through the Quali and were ranked 14 in the Main Draw. 
  • They handily won their first match against Tokyo Olympian Brandi Wilkerson and Sara Hughes. 
  • They didn’t lose a single match. 
  • To win the title, they took down Tokyo Olympians Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes. 
  • Before the AVP season, Taryn and Kristen completed an impressive undefeated season at LSU as the #1 Team. 

Atlanta was undoubtedly the highlight of their year, but they continued on to two more 5th place finishes and the two longest sets in Women’s history. Having to face April and Alix in MBO and Chicago, their path to the Finals wasn’t as smooth as in Atlanta. But these two recent graduates are future stars. Can’t wait to see how they surprise us in 2022.