Not surprisingly, Phil Dalhausser and April Ross dominated’s 2017 All-Pro Beach Volleyball Awards.

“It’s an honor to be named MVP,” said Dalhausser, who had a tremendous season with partner Nick Lucena. “Winning an award like this is a great achievement, in my opinion. I have to give a lot of credit to Nick, he had a great year as well.

“This year I had my third highest winning percentage in my career, I felt that was pretty darned good considering Todd (Rogers) and I had some pretty good years, and the level of competition was so high this year. All in all, it was a successful season.”

On the women’s side, Ross received nearly unanimous recognition for both MVP and Best Offensive Player, despite being hobbled by a toe injury much of the year.

“This year was crazy for me, a last-minute partner change, my first broken bone ever, and some other stuff, so I’m extremely grateful and flattered to be awarded this accolade by,” Ross said. “And a big thanks to my partner for the summer, Lauren Fendrick for making me look good!”

Our awards include men’s and women’s MVP, Best Offensive player, Best Defensive player, Rookie of the Year, and Breakthrough Wild Card. In addition, we named five top blockers and defenders to the first team, five to the second team, and three honorable-mentions.

Voting was done by a panel that included co-publisher and photography director Ed Chan, pro player and VBM contributor Travis Mewhirter, pro player Tri Bourne, AVP tournament director Jeff Conover, and Holly McPeak, a three-time Olympian, International Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee and volleyball TV analyst.

The awards went to American pro players based on all their performances in 2017, including the AVP and FIVB.

Dalhausser dominated voting for both Men’s MVP and Best Offensive player. Previously, he Dalhausser received FIVB accolades for Most Outstanding, Best blocker, and Best Offensive Player in 2017.

“Phil continues to dominate,” Bourne said. “Nobody has been able to match his level … yet!”

Mewhirter agreed.

“Dalhausser is, arguably, the best offensive and defensive player in the world, the best server in the United States, and the best setter on the planet. He’s not just the MVP –- Dalhausser could very well be the GOAT (greatest of all time).”

Dalhausser’s teammate, Nick Lucena, was the top vote-getter in the Best Defensive player category, not only for his quickness, but also his ability to perform under pressure. Lucena sided out to three FIVB gold medals this year, most notably in the Hamburg World Tour Finals.

Nick Lucena-All-Pro team-Defensive Player of the Magazine
Nick Lucena is VBM’s Defensive Player of the Year/Ed Chan,

“Nick’s ability to side out under constant pressure, serve after serve after serve, especially against a variety of giants on the international scene, was remarkable,” Chan said.

Rookie of the Year went to Eric Zaun, who had a remarkable 2017, with a third at AVP San Francisco, and fifths in AVP New York and AVP Austin.

“In New York City,” Mewhirter said, “Zaun and Ed Ratledge stunned Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner, and on the livestream Tri Bourne admitted that he had ‘never heard of the kid.’ By the end of the year, everybody had heard of the kid.”

The Breakthrough Wild Card was given to Stafford Slick, who scored his first AVP win in Seattle while playing with Billy Allen.

Conover recognized not only Slick’s physicality, but also his ball control.

“Slick was one of the most explosive players this year. Committed to a risky strategy of ace or error serving, which coupled with Billy’s more conservative approach allowed for a great dynamic, plus offensively ran a more diverse offense of shoot sets, lobs and on-2 attacks,” Conover said. “Other than Phil and Jake (Gibb), Slick was the best transition setter, which is one of the most important markers of a great blocker.”

Ross and partner Lauren Fendrick handily outperformed their No. 14 seed at the World Championship in Vienna to finish with a silver medal.

“April Ross is the best all-around player in the country,” McPeak said. “She is not a true blocker or true defender, but she does everything well and can dominate a match.

“April continues to make her partners better and that in my mind is an MVP. She is very disciplined with her footwork and looks the same no matter where she is attacking or shooting the ball which makes it tough to stop.”

Brittany Hochevar-Defensive Player of the Year-All-Pro-AVP-Hermosa Beach-volleyball-beach volleyball
Brittany Hochevar is VBM’s Defensive Player of the Year/Ed Chan,

Brittany Hochevar is the Best Defensive Player, with stiff competition from Brooke Sweat. Hochevar dominated the West Coast AVP events, finishing first with Emily Day in Huntington, Hermosa Beach, and Manhattan Beach.

“Nobody played with more grit and determination than Brittany,” Chan said. “I admire athletes that are both emotionally visible and vulnerable and have the wherewithal to dig deeper than their opponents when it matters.”

Sara Hughes received unanimous recognition for Rookie of the Year. At 22, Hughes’ trophy mantle is already getting quite crowded. She received’s Top Beach Collegiate Pair award in May, as well as the FIVB Rookie of the Year award for 2017.

Along with Kelly Claes, the pair had fifth-place finishes internationally at FIVB Rio de Janeiro and FIVB Porec and earned their first domestic win in the season-ending AVP Chicago.

“Sara Hughes is hard working, physically gifted and hungry to win,” McPeak said. “She will have an immediate impact on the professional beach level.”

Hughes’ partner Claes was honored as Breakthrough Wild Card for 2017. The 6-foot-2 blocker made her mark the old fashioned way, with a variety of skills, according to Conover.

“Kelly for me was the most versatile player at the net, similar to Jen Kessy the last decade,” Conover said. “The best, most athletic pulling digger and a solid positional blocker making options very tough for the opponent. A good transition setter with great hands. Probably the second best server behind April Ross. Offensively very strong, and huge upside for adding to that arsenal. Now she just needs to start imposing her will as one of the most gifted players in the world.”’s 2017 All-Pro Beach Awards

All-Pro Men
MVP Phil Dalhausser
Best Offensive Player: Phil Dalhausser
Best Defensive Player: Nick Lucena
Rookie of the Year: Eric Zaun
Breakthrough Player of the Year: Stafford Slick
All-Pro Women
MVP: April Ross
Best Offensive Player: April Ross
Best Defensive Player: Brittany Hochevar
Rookie of the Year: Sara Hughes
Breakthrough Player of the Year: Kelly Claes
Men’s All-Pro
First-team All-Pro blockers
Phil Dalhausser
Jake Gibb
Ryan Doherty
Stafford Slick
Trevor Crabb
First-team All-Pro defenders
Nick Lucena
Taylor Crabb
John Hyden
Billy Allen
John Mayer
Second-team All-Pro blockers
Theo Brunner
Jeremy Casebeer
Ricardo Santos
Ed Ratledge
Maddison McKibbin
Second-team All-Pro defenders
Sean Rosenthal
Reid Priddy
Casey Patterson
Eric Zaun
Chaim Schalk
Honorable-Mention blockers
Avery Drost
Tim Bomgren
Piotr Marciniak
Honorable-Mention defenders
Chase Frishman
Roberto Rodriguez
Ty Loomis
Women’s All-Pro
First-team All-Pro blockers
Lauren Fendrick
Emily Day
Summer Ross
Kelly Claes
Kelley Larsen
First-team All-Pro defenders
April Ross
Brittany Hochevar
Brooke Sweat
Sara Hughes
Nicole Branagh
Second-team All-Pro blockers
Alix Klineman
Angela Bensend
Kim DiCello
Caitlin Ledoux
Brandie Wilkerson
Second-team All-Pro defenders
Betsi Flint
Lane Carico
Geena Urango
Maria Clara Salgado
Irene Pollock
Honorable-Mention blockers
Jennifer Fopma
Amanda Dowdy
Karolina Marciniak
Honorable Mention defenders
Emily Stockman
Whitney Pavlik
Kelly Reeves

*** (formerly Volleyball magazine) has honored the top competitors in the indoor men’s and women’s games for nearly four decades. This year we previously recognized the top college men, women, and college beach players.


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