Two semifinalists await on each side after a Saturday at AVP Atlanta that proved that parity rules the first major event of the 2021 domestic pro beach volleyball season.
Fifth-seeded Zana Muno and Crissy Jones and 14th-seeded Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth are already in Sunday’s women’s semifinals.
And into the men’s semifinals are fourth-seeded Theo Brunner and Chaim Schalk and second-seeded Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb.
Jones and Muno play at 11:10 a.m. Eastern Sunday against the winner of the match between second-seeded Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil and seventh-seeded Megan Rice and Sarah Schermerhorn. That match gets things going at 9 a.m.
Nuss and Kloth play at 11:15 a.m. against the winner of top-seeded Emily Day and Betsi Flint vs. sixth-seeded Terese Cannon and Molly Turner, which starts at 9:05 a.m.
Crabb and Gibb don’t play until 12:15 p.m. against the winner of the 10:10 a.m. quarterfinal between third-seeded Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson and 16th-seeded Mike Groselle and David Vandermeer. Schalk and Brunner’s play at 12:20 p.m. versus the winner of the 10:05 a.m. quarterfinal between sixth-seeded Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb and 12th-seeded Billy Allen and Andy Benesh.
The parity on the AVP tour was evident again Saturday. The women’s upsets included Muno and Jones upending Flint and Day, and Nuss and Kloth continuing to put a wrecking ball through the seeds, defeating Rice and Schermerhorn.
15th-seeded qualifier Megan Kraft and Savvy Simo upended fourth-seeded Kelly Reeves and Karissa Cook in the contenders bracket.
In the men’s draw, the only upsets Saturday were in the contender’s bracket, where 12th-seeded Allen and Benesh eliminated both No. 10 Skylar del Sol and Ed Ratledge and No. 9 Troy Field and Eric Beranek.
In addition, top-seeded Phil Dalhausser, who plays with fellow Olympian Nick Lucena, had to leave the tournament Saturday due to a family emergency.
For Taylor Crabb, this year’s AVP events have a special importance. He never got to play with Gibb in the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for COVID before the Games.
He spoke with VBM’s Tim Britt Saturday morning.
“To be honest, I’m still processing it all. I don’t think I’ll ever get over what happened,” Crabb said.
“I’m trying to move forward as fast as possible, look to the future, and enjoy being back out here on the AVP with Jake. We have just a couple more tournaments left together, so I’m trying to soak that all in and enjoy every possible moment with him before he leaves me.”
Crabb is focused on the remainder of his season with Gibb.
“Personally, I would love to win all three of these AVPs and let Jake retire on top into the sunset, that’s my personal goal.
“Obviously he wants to win as well, but nothing would make me happier than to win these three and go out on top.”
With Gibb’s retirement, Crabb is coy about his partnership plans for Paris 2024.
“After Tokyo, 2024 is my long-term goal. I don’t have many words for it, but that’s what I want.
“Who am I going to play with? I have somebody in mind, I can’t really share that yet, but people are going to be very excited when they do find out who it is.”
AVP Atlanta is the first event since the onset of COVID that has allowed a full fan base, a welcome change, said Crabb.
“There’s nothing like being on stadium court with packed stands, feeling the energy of the crowd. Even just walking around the AVP site and taking pictures, saying hi to fans, signing balls or shirts, it’s not the same without them. It’s not the same to play, and it’s not the same feeling.
“I know I speak for every athlete here that we’re just happy to have fans again.”
The biggest upset story on the men’s side is qualifiers Groselle and Vandermeer. Groselle’s previous best finish is 29th, Vandermeer’s 15th. The pair is currently sitting in fifth place heading into Sunday.
Qualifiers don’t typically get many opportunities to play on stadium court during night matches.
“It was awesome,” Vandermeer said. “There’ really no way to describe it. The atmosphere, the people, it was so crazy. There are a lot of wonderful people out there cheering us on, and we appreciate each and every single one of them.
“They really made our experience even better than it already was.”
Groselle agreed: “It’s been unreal. It’s leaving me itching for more. I want more.”
Groselle was disappointed in his play against Schalk and Brunner.
“My legs just weren’t there tonight, I don’t know if it was the nerves, or playing seven, I don’t even know how many fricking matches we played, if I’m drained or what.”
Guaranteed at least fifth place encourages Groselle to continue his pro beach volleyball path.
“I just want to keep playing and training hard. I love the grind, I love celebrating our work, that’s all I want to do.”
For Vandermeer, whose father David officiates on the AVP tour, and who was married on p1440 center court, it simply reinforces his love for the game.
“We love volleyball, this is what it’s all about.”
Results courtesy of BVBinfo.com