WAIKIKI – To end the 2019 season, we’ve got a new ball, a new event — sort of, the AVP stopped by Hawai’i last year, but it wasn’t an open event, and part of it was King of the Court — and a new system to determine who made main draw: top two out of three Gold Series events as a team were taken into account.
So there’s a lot of new elements of the final event of the season and, as could have been expected, a lot of new teams testing out potential partners with whom they can go into the off-season.
Below is the preview of the men’s qualifier, which will take four teams to round out a 16-team main draw. We’ll look at the women’s side on Wednesday.
Sean Rosenthal, Brian Cook: Let’s all pause right here and give a hand to Brian Cook. You can give him a standing ovation if you want. Doesn’t matter if you’re at work – just go ahead and stand up and clap for Cook, who’s making his first return to competitive beach volleyball since Chicago of 2017. After he and Tim May qualified, making it Cook’s third main draw of the season, he underwent a few surgeries, the exact number of which I don’t know and don’t really want to guess, nor do I know exactly what he got surgery on. All I know is that it’s been a long recovery process, and now Cook, who has been making cameo appearances at the fours tournaments on 16th street in Hermosa, is back. He was picked up by a slightly below average partner in Rosenthal, a two-time Olympian with more than 20 professional victories, but hey, gotta start somewhere, right?
Kyle Friend, Paul Lotman: Gotta love a power partner switch to end the season. Lotman’s been popping around a bit, from Adam Roberts to Gabe Ospina to Miles Partain and, now, to Friend. Both have had career seasons, Friend with Duncan Budinger, who couldn’t make the trip – work, kids, family and such – and Lotman recently enjoyed a career fifth-place finish in Chicago with Partain, whose precocity verges on freakish. This is going to be a phenomenal team should they stick with it. Both set well, both serve fantastically and aggressively, and both pass extremely well, especially considering their size. This is going to be a big, physical team that has the makings of a Sunday team should they build together.
Miles Partain, Lev Priima: The hilarity of this team in terms of personality difference cannot be properly expressed through writing. Partain is as humble as they come, deflecting praise or just accepting it with a smile and a legitimately gracious ‘thank you’ despite him being one of the craftiest defenders in the country at the age of 17. Then you have Priima, a big, Russian blocker who is going to tell you exactly what’s on his mind at all times. The contrast in their personalities, and in their playing style – Partain is all control and craft, Priima is simply going to hit you as hard as he can — makes for a great team. They’ve played together before, winning all three CBVAs they’ve competed in, which are basically just longer qualifiers. No reason they shouldn’t play just as well here in Waikiki.
Raffe Paulis, Ian Satterfield: Paulis is now playing with his, roughly speaking, 900th partner of the season (fine, I did the research: It’s his seventh in eight tournaments). Satterfield played the majority of the year with Mark Burik, and while they were unquestionably solid, they both seemed to be disenchanted with their lack of great finishes, looking elsewhere. What he found was his old guy from 2016, with whom he played Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Cincinnati. Although they didn’t get the results that was expected of them, this is still a good team, and both have improved significantly in the three years since they last played together.
Jake Rosener, Ric Cervantes: It’s kind of funny that Rosener’s partner the last few tournaments, Chris Vaughan, is actually in Hawai’i and just can’t play because of work. So he’s picked up the home favorite in Cervantes, who is kind of a legend around these parts, still holding records at the University of Hawai’i when he was a libero digging just about everything. I love this team not only because the physical skill mesh is there, but the personality, too. They played well at a CBVA in Zuma, so any kinks of a new partnership should be at least a little bit ironed out. Factor in the fact that Cervantes gets an automatic three points for home field advantage, and Rosener’s made quite the pickup indeed.
Jon Ferrari, Brian Miller: Good to see Miller back on the sand after an injury in Manhattan Beach that kept him out of Chicago. And good to see Miller back with Ferrari, with whom he made Huntington Beach. They didn’t win a match, but they gave Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos and Avery Drost and Eric Zaun good runs, so this is a high ceiling, high floor team that has experience at the highest level. That, and Ferrari is going to be hungry to beat my behind, so he’s going to have some extra fuel coming into Hawai’i.