You can dig through all the numbers and statistics from the 2019 AVP Gold Series New York City Open, but there is a certain number the winners dig the most.
“I haven’t made that much prize money in a long time in one tournament,” April Ross said after she and Alix Klineman won their fifth consecutive AVP event.
“It’s sweet, it’s the Gold Series, it’s more money, which we like, it helps us out for Hawaii which is really cool,” said Phil Dalhausser, who joined Nick Lucena for cashing in with their first title of the year. “I’ll take it, three out of four years in New York.”
The winners shared $30,000. For Ross, it’s her biggest AVP paycheck since splitting $47,500 with Jen Kessy (now her coach) in the 2012 AVP Championships in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“I’m super grateful for the AVP growing like they are and to have these Gold Series, it’s huge for us as players trying to do this for a career,” Ross said. “For me winning the Gold Series, and we were live on NBC, is huge. The Gold Series is big, it’s our domestic 5-star.” [Ross is referencing the FIVB international tour 5-star tournaments, which is the most elite and highest paying international tournaments.]
Both championship teams had to beat surprising upstarts. Ross and Klineman overcame three-point deficits late in each game to fend off Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, who were playing in their first AVP tournament together.
Dalhausser and Lucena had less trouble with Troy Field and Tim Bomgren, who are in their first year as a partnership. It was Field’s first foray into an AVP final.
In fact, even after capturing their 12th AVP title together, Dahausser and Lucena were asked more about their riveting marathon Semifinal win over top seeds Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb.
“You’ve just got to prepare for a long match,” Lucena said. “They’re not going to give you anything. They’re not going to ever not play well. It’s been high-level volleyball for us and I really enjoy winning but us losing it’s just making one or two plays. Hopefully we can get to play in the Final one of these days.”
That depends on the teams remaining undefeated on the road to the Final. Or as Crabb put it: “When we can stay out of the [Contender’s] Bracket, I guess.”
Floating to victory
The Semifinal turned in the second set when Dalhausser served five consecutive aces. These were not the traditional bomb serves that Dalhausser can deliver, but float serves that allow the wind to play tricks with the ball.
“It’s never happened in history, I guarantee it,” Lucena said.
“I’ve never even served five jump-serve aces in a row,” Dalhausser said. “To have it with float serves is crazy.”
It came a day after Casey Patterson bombed four consecutive aces to break open the third set as he and Chase Budinger eliminated Ryan Doherty and John Hyden.
Ross and Klineman have not only opened the 2019 season with 10 consecutive victories, they have extended their match-winning streak to 25. Their last defeat was to Summer Ross and Sara Hughes on July 29, 2018, in the AVP Hermosa Beach Open final.
“I think we aspired to it, deep down we knew we were capable of it, but you saw today we had two extremely tough matches so it’s not a given in any way,” Ross said. “I just like our desire to win and our competitiveness and the way we go about tournaments and getting better and hopefully that’s why that stat is there.”
Klineman basically indicated that it’s a good start.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” she said. “We’re proud to have as many wins as we’ve had on this tour. It doesn’t necessarily feel quite like that because we play internationally in between and we’ve had a few good finishes. We love winning and we celebrate, but we get back to work and figure out how we can get even better.”
Serving the youth
Claes, 23, reached the fourth final in her career (she won in Chicago with Sara Hughes in 2017) and was shepherding new partner Sponcil, 22, through her first.
They had a 17-14 lead in the first game, then a 19-16 lead in the second before Ross and Klineman found a way to win each.
“It’s disappointing to get all this way and lose but they’re an amazing team and we were right there,” Claes said. “It’s exciting to see our progression because this is our third time playing them but we’re getting closer and closer.
“I don’t know if it’s how many Olympics and that experience that gives (Ross) that extra edge because of how many times I’m sure she’s been in that same situation.”
And the next result is?
Field and Bomgren surprised many by reaching the Semifinals in the season opener in Huntington Beach, then matched that result in Austin. With that progression, could Seattle in two weeks bring some real magic?
“Man, it just only goes up,” said Field, who reached his first Final. “So it would be nice for a first in the next one.”
Bomgren was playing in his third Final and is still looking for his first title. The result in this Final didn’t dampen his enthusiasm though.
“It’s a fun ride,” Bomgren said. “We’re having an absolute blast, we’re playing loose and we’re both working our tails off, we’re scrappy and having a lot of fun.”
Late Sunday, many of the players raced to the airport on their way to Warsaw for the FIVB international 4-star tournament.
One of the players who is sidestepping international play for a few months is Jeremy Casebeer, who placed fifth this weekend with Chaim Schalk. Casebeer said he will wait until Schalk becomes eligible for international play as an American in October.
Does the lack of international play put them at a disadvantage?
“I don’t think so,” said Schalk, who competed with Ben Saxton for Canada in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. “There’s a lot of AVP events and it’s just about building with your partner and finding your rhythm. I wouldn’t say that’s the case. We started the season pretty well and a little bit of a disappointment today obviously, a big-time disappointment. Sometimes you play bad and we didn’t play well today.”
Seven veterans made their 2019 AVP debuts. Brooke Sweat, who has eight career tour victories, played with Brandie Wilkerson and the pair took a seventh-place finish.
On the men’s side, John Hyden and Ryan Doherty took ninth (they won together in Chicago in 2017). Reid Priddy and Theo Brunner, who have played five international events together this year also tied for ninth in their first AVP tournament as a team.
From coast to coast
The New York City venue may have changed from piers 25 and 26 in Hudson River Park, but the New York fans represented at Pier 53 with raucous and standing-room-only support. They even booed the slickster who tried to cheat his way to victory in a musical chairs competition during a timeout.
Now it’s up to the fans in Seattle from June 21-23 when the tour returns to Lake Sammamish Park. See you there!