The happiest seventh-place finisher ever in an AVPNext tournament was in Seaside, Oregon watching the semifinals and hoping for the desired result.
Logan Webber got that result, and brought those season points into the Manhattan Beach Open. Oh, by the way, not as a qualifier, but in the Main Draw.
“It’s the first time I haven’t had to play the Qualifier,” the 23-year-old Webber said. “It’s pretty exciting, everything worked out.”
Webber might be the poster boy for AVP’s official developmental series, AVPNext. After all, how many kids from Grand Rapids, Mich. dream of playing beach volleyball? But the lightning struck Webber, and even when he was taking a recruiting trip to visit Cincinnati Christian University, he made sure it coincided with the AVP Tour stop just up the road in Mason, Ohio.
He’s a 6-foot-7 blocker who has been playing with Ben Vaught in a new partnership this season. It’s only been a few years, but Webber is showing us how far you can get in a short time.
Sometimes it pays off to be a self-described “volleyball nerd.” Webber has delved into so much beach volleyball, he doesn’t necessarily have to pattern himself after Phil Dalhausser, as much as he would like to. Webber studies all of them.
“The first AVP match I ever watched, we walked into the event in Cincinnati and Adrian Carambula and Stafford Slick were playing against Phil and Rosie (Sean Rosenthal),” Webber said. “For every blocker growing up, Phil’s the inspiration, watching his videos on YouTube.”
“I looked at the Stafford Slick story, a Midwest Minnesota guy, he always seemed like he was a guy who had so much fun out there when he was playing. He was kind of the one I watched growing up. He didn’t play at a huge school, his story was kind of relatable to me.”
In more ways than one though. Slick, an AVP champ with Billy Allen in Seattle in 2017, has battled eye problems and wears protective goggles when he steps on the court. So does Webber.
As luck would have it, Webber has had a detached retina three times, the most recent one costing him virtually the entire 2018 season after the AVP/FIVB Huntington Beach Open.
“Mine was where I didn’t get hit by anything, I just had a weird genetic problem with my eye,” Webber said. “I’ve actually detached my retina like three times now. It definitely makes you realize how fragile everything is, it puts volleyball into perspective.”
Still, that Huntington experience was, um, eye-opening for Webber. Playing with David Vander Meer, another Grand Rapids native, they won two Qualifier matches to reach the Main Draw. Then they ran into Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb, then Canadians Ben Saxton and Grant O’Gorman.
He wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. There he was, standing in line to receive his credentials for the Main Draw, right behind Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, Olympic gold medalists Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil, and Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa, last year’s World Tour Finals victors.
“That was amazing,” Webber said. “It was pretty surreal to be in that situation.”
It all started for Webber in 2015, when he and Chad Bergman started in the Qualifier in Cincinnati. They won their first match before reality struck again.
“It was the first event I ever played. We won our first match and then we played Jason Lochhead and Ed Ratledge, who were the one seed in the Qualifier and they just smoked us,” Webber said. “I was feeling all good, we beat some guys in our first match, and we played these guys and it was like ‘OK, these guys are really good.’”
“It was cool,” Webber continued. “I definitely think having that experience in Cincinnati brought it to the forefront for me. After that Qualifier, I made it my goal that that’s what I wanted to do. The next year I wanted to be in the Main Draw and to qualify. I played every AVPNext, Gold Series, and those events have been incredible for me.
“The whole AVPNext Series, it gives people outside of California a tangible thing to shoot for.”
What’s next? Certainly, the AVP has reached more than one Logan Webber, yet he’s one worth keeping an eye on.