Fridays are typically ho-hum at AVP events, when the occasional No. 10 beats the No. 4 seed, and the nearly ubiquitous No. 9 seed upsets the 8.
Not so at AVP Atlanta, the first domestic event of 2021.
There were four upsets in the men’s winner’s bracket as top-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, No. 5 Tim Bomgren and Jeremy Casebeer, No. 8 John Hyden and Bill Kolinske and No. 9 Eric Beranek and Troy Field were all knocked off.
The women’s bracket suffered from the same malady, with No. 2 Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, No. 3 Sarah Hughes and Brandie Wilkerson, No. 4 Karissa Cook and Kelly Reeves and No. 6 Terese Cannon and Molly Turner also falling into the contenders bracket.
Not only that, but two qualifiers are in the winner’s quarterfinals, Groselle and Vandermeer and Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss.
The upsets create an intriguing Saturday morning contenders-bracket schedule (all times Eastern):
9:05 a.m. — Jacob Landel and Lev Priima vs. Skylar del Sol and Ed Ratledge
10:10 a.m. — Piotr Marciniak and Rafu Rodriguez vs. Kyle Friend and Paul Lotman
11:10 a.m. — Avery Drost and Miles Partain vs. Tim Bomgren and Jeremy Casebeer
11:15 a.m. — John Hyden and Bill Kolinske vs. Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena
9 a.m. — Delaney Mewhirter and Brooke Sweat vs. Hughes and Wilkerson
9:10 a.m. — Claes and Sponcil vs. Kim Hildreth and Katie Hogan
10:05 a.m. — Cook and Reeves vs. Falyn Fonoimoana and Geena Urango
10:15 a.m. — Corinne Quiggle and Allie Wheeler vs. Katie Dickens and Jennifer Keddy
Why so many upsets?
Perhaps it’s the 15-hour time difference from Tokyo to Los Angeles in the cases of Olympians Dalcena and Slaes, plus the three-hour difference from Los Angeles to Atlanta, or perhaps it’s a post-Olympic letdown, Father Time catching up to the 40-somethings atop USA Volleyball, or even that the qualifiers have been competing on a steady diet of AVPNext Gold events while the top players haven’t been able to compete.
NCAA beach fans won’t be surprised by the success of qualifiers Kloth and Nuss, the LSU products who ran up an undefeated 36-0 record this year. They’ve played and done well this summer in AVPNext tournaments this year. This is their first AVP events as professionals.
The pair spoke with VBM contributor Tim Britt after their morning upset of Hughes and Wilkerson.
Kloth, an indoors All-American at Creighton before transferring to LSU and playing beach for the first time, wasn’t even familiar with the AVP domestic tour until about a year-and-a-half ago.
“I was watching last summer,” Kloth said, “watching as much as I could. I said to myself, ‘I want to do that. That looks amazing.’
“Coming here today and seeing everything, it really is a special moment in your life.”
Not many teams get to make their pro debut on stadium court, let alone while upsetting the No. 3 seed, Nuss said.
“It definitely lived up to the hype playing on stadium court, it’s pretty unreal,” Nuss said.
And now that Nuss and Kloth have graduated from LSU, they can accept the prize money.
Nuss and Kloth are coached by LSU assistant Drew Hamilton, maintaining some continuity from their college roots. They still train in Baton Rouge and New Orleans (Nuss’ home town), where they feel that the humidity and heat gives them an edge in the Atlanta conditions.
“We want to win, honestly, to take it game by game and keep playing our game and focus on every point, every match, taking each set by set,” Nuss said.
“We definitely have high goals and we’re excited to keep competing.
Kloth cited the pair’s growth track.
“We want to improve every time we get out there. So it’s not just competing, and winning or losing, and just being done. How are we going to get better.”
They said they were inspired by April Ross’ and Alix Klineman’s Olympic gold-medal run.
“Watching that run was awesome, said Kloth. “I don’t think anyone can not be inspired by that.”
“I’ve looked up to her for a while now, seeing her finally get that gold is just awesome, and I’m super-excited for both her and Alix,” Nuss said.
“I think it’s underestimated how much work goes into being an Olympian and getting a gold medal, or any medal. We’re all sitting at home on our coaches thinking that they’re doing something right or something wrong and we have no idea the amount of hours and dedication that they have put in, so that gold medal is well deserved.”
The pair will play both AVP Manhattan and AVP Chicago, the two remaining stops the pro tour, and also plan to play AVPNext Gold in Clearwater, Florida.