AUSTIN, Texas — For a qualifier team on the AVP tour there is perhaps no better feeling than having to cancel a Thursday-night flight in order to stay and play another day.
Just ask third-year AVP competitor and former indoor national teamer Paul Lotman. He and Gabe Ospina, seeded 25th out of 48 total teams, had to slog through four matches to earn their spot in the main draw of Friday’s 2019 AVP Austin Open.
Immediately after beating Adam Roberts and Andy Benesh, Lotman jumped on his phone. Luckily for him, he flies Southwest — no change fees — and already had a back-up flight reserved for Saturday.
Although the night ended well for Lotman and Ospina, their fortunes did not look bright one set into the match with Roberts and Benesh. They lost the first 21-11 and during the break Lotman could be seen airing his frustrations at Ospina in the players’ box.
“I had to yell at my partner, which is never good,” Lotman said. “I just said, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to be aggressive like you’ve been all day. You’re a different player right now. I don’t know if it’s the nerves or the pressure or you’re tired, probably a combination of everything.’ But he got going, like he always does.”
A 21-13 scoreline in Ospina and Lotman’s favor pushed the match to three and then they sealed the deal 15-13 in the third.
In addition to earning Lotman his first main-draw berth since the Hermosa Beach Open last July (with Dave McKienzie) and Ospina his first since the 2017 Chicago Open (with Lotman), the win gave Lotman bragging rights over Roberts, who he played with just two weeks ago in Huntington.
“I think Adam and I just weren’t on the same wavelength as far as a lot of things and the chemistry wasn’t there, and in this game, it’s crucial,” Lotman said. “For whatever reason, me and Gabe have it.”
Sheila Shaw and Mackenzie Ponnet also highlighted chemistry as serving a role in their defeat of Maria Salgado and Traci Callahan in the final round. The come-from-behind three-set win (19-21, 21-18, 15-13) served as a rematch of a third-round qualifier meeting two weeks ago in Huntington Beach, which Salgado and Callahan won 21-14, 21-19 before going on qualify and take a fifth-place finish.
“I wanted another shot at them,” Shaw said. “[When we saw the bracket], I’m like, this is set up perfectly for a little sweet revenge. We knew we had to hunker in and work hard, and they are a great team, they just took a fifth. It just sucks that you have to see a team like that in the qualifier.”
“It makes it all the more sweet to get that win into the main draw,” Ponnet added. “I was excited because I think they came in thinking we were going to play like we did last time, and we made some changes over the last couple weeks and worked really hard. I knew we were going to be a new team.”
So redemption, a spot in the main draw, and it all happened on Ponnet’s 26th birthday.
Shaw and Ponnet, the No. 3 seed, were the only top seed to advance on the women’s side. Texas teams did exceptionally well with No. 8 seed Meghan Mannari and Taylor Nyquist of Dallas downing No. 1 seeded Jessica Sykora and Brittany Tiegs to advance, and Austin’s own No. 12 Lauren Dickson and Katie Lindelow escaping with a win over No. 4 Jessica Gaffney and Molly Turner.
Sara Putt and Payton Rund, who went 16-5 together this season at Florida State mostly competing at the No. 2 pair, upset No. 2-seeded Lara Dykstra and Cassie House in the first round and then came within just a few points of being the token NCAA team in Friday’s main draw, losing in three to Florida duo Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn.
Joining Lotman and Ospina in the men’s main draw are No. 2 seed Eric Beranek and Marty Lorenz, who are playing together for the first time. This marks Lorenz’s second main draw in a row after qualifying in Huntington with Raffe Paulis. The No. 3 seed, Bruno Amorim and Skylar Del Sol, needed three very tight sets to avoid elimination at the hands of former Team USA middle David Lee and Houston native Silila Tucker.
Daniel Dalanhese, who all you coaches out there may know as one of the authors of “The Essential Beach Volleyball Drill Book,” got in playing with former BYU opposite Joe Hillman. The pair—who at 38 and 42, respectively, are the oldest team to get in through the Austin qualifier (and were it not for Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos would also be the oldest team in the main draw)—have played three previous AVP tournaments together, but not since 2016 when they took a ninth at the Manhattan Beach Open.
With a competitive field for both genders and the unforgiving single-elimination format of the qualifier, plenty of strong teams weren’t able to string together three or four wins in a row in order to advance and will be headed home or watching the main draw from the stands on Friday.
Beach volleyball is, after all, nothing if not humbling.
Take Lotman, a 6-7 outside hitter who spent eight seasons with the men’s national team, played at the 2012 London Olympics, and served as an alternate for Rio in 2016. In three seasons on the AVP, he’s played with nine partners and made just three main draws. Well, make that four.
“I’m still a long way from AVP main draw, the pros. Still very amateur, which has been very humbling for me,” Lotman said. “Being on the national team, going to the Olympics in indoor, and coming out here and getting my butt kicked by nobodies.”
Or how about Salgado, who has played 19 years on the FIVB for Brazil, winning two gold medals, four silvers, and 12 bronze medals. She’s played in 11 AVP tournaments and had to start in the qualifier in all but four. Three of those six times, she didn’t make the main draw. Even after taking a seventh in Huntington, there she and Callahan were, back to fighting for their lives in the qualifier.
“It’s very humbling, but very satisfying, too,” Lotman continued. “Because it’s a lot of work and it’s so rewarding at the end of the day when you play four matches and you get to play on Friday.”
Angel De la Cruz/Kristopher Fraser (Q32) def. Kevin Coyle/Noel Khirsukhani (Q33) 21-17, 21-17
Jonathan Drake/Chris Luers (Q17) def. Jack Lane/Jack Petersen (Q48) 21-18, 21-18
Tom Kohler/Christopher Vaughan (Q24) def. Charles Porter/Clark Porter (Q41) 21-17, 21-18
Paul Lotman/Gabriel Ospina (16, Q25) def. Jerel Deacon/Francisco Quesada-Paneque (Q40) 21-11, 23-21
Ray Birtcher/Dillon Cox (Q28) def. Alexi Gabriel/Tal Shavit (Q37) 21-15, 23-21
Earl Schultz/Jake Urrutia (Q21) def. Chris Olds/Tommy Wolfe (Q44) 21-18, 19-21, 15-12
Drew Hamilton/Daniel Lindsey (Q20) def. Shawn Ledig/Kastan Maness (Q45) 21-9, 21-8
Dana Camacho/Dave Palm (Q36) def. Matt Blanke/Chris Risley (Q29) 21-16, 22-24, 15-11
Christopher Austin/Kristopher Johnson (Q35) def. Kibbee Jelks/Adam Wienckowski (Q30) 21-18, 22-24, 17-15
Robert deAurora/Justin Phipps (Q19) def. Bryan Dirks/Kevin Knight (Q46) 14-21, 21-19, 15-12
Marshall Brock/Jake Rosener (Q22) def. Michael Groselle/Garrett Roberts (Q43) 21-19, 21-16
Carl Naslund/Garrett Peterson (Q27) def. Mark Semmler/Nathan Yang (Q38) 21-15, 21-17
Kameron Beans/Angel Dache (Q39) def. Marc Fornaciari/John-Michael Plummer (Q26) 21-14, 19-21, 15-12
Alex Diaz/Yamil Yanes Rodriguez (Q23) def. Jonathan Alvarez/Chris McDonald (Q42) 21-16, 21-18
Peter Connole/Steven Roschitz (Q18) def. Juan Beltran/Carlos Gomariz (Q47) 21-19, 21-15
David Updegrove/Ryan Walker (Q31) def. Tomas Goldsmith/Troy Schlicker (Q34) 17-21, 21-18, 15-12 Round 2
Angel De la Cruz/Kristopher Fraser (Q32) def. Spencer Sauter/Ben Vaught (Q1) 23-25, 21-16, 15-12
Andy Benesh/Adam Roberts (Q16) def. Jonathan Drake/Chris Luers (Q17) 21-15, 18-21, 15-13
Travis Mewhirter/Myles Muagututia (Q9) def. Tom Kohler/Christopher Vaughan (Q24) 21-11, 21-12
Paul Lotman/Gabriel Ospina (16, Q25) def. Cole Fiers/John Schwengel (Q8) 21-14, 21-14
Dylan Maarek/Jeff Samuels (Q5) def. Ray Birtcher/Dillon Cox (Q28) 21-19, 21-18
Daniel Dalanhese/Joe Hillman (15, Q12) def. Earl Schultz/Jake Urrutia (Q21) 21-15, 17-21, 15-10
Drew Hamilton/Daniel Lindsey (Q20) def. Bradley Connors/Kyle Radde (Q13) 21-19, 18-21, 15-13
Dana Camacho/Dave Palm (Q36) def. Andrew Dentler/Raffe Paulis (Q4) 22-20, 21-15
Bruno Amorim/Skylar del Sol (Q3) def. Christopher Austin/Kristopher Johnson (Q35) 27-25, 21-16
Jon Ferrari/Brian Miller (Q14) def. Robert deAurora/Justin Phipps (Q19) 21-18, 21-10
Marshall Brock/Jake Rosener (Q22) def. Brandon Joyner/David Vander Meer (Q11) 18-21, 24-22, 15-10
David Lee/Silila Tucker (Q6) def. Carl Naslund/Garrett Peterson (Q27) 21-18, 21-23, 15-12
Kameron Beans/Angel Dache (Q39) def. Christian Honer/Logan Webber (Q7) 21-17, 21-16
Alex Diaz/Yamil Yanes Rodriguez (Q23) def. Jacob Landel/Lev Priima (Q10) 22-20, 25-23
Steven Irvin/Hagen Smith (Q15) def. Peter Connole/Steven Roschitz (Q18) 21-18, 17-21, 15-13
Eric Beranek/Marty Lorenz (13, Q2) def. David Updegrove/Ryan Walker (Q31) 19-21, 21-10, 15-9 Round 3
Andy Benesh/Adam Roberts (Q16) def. Angel De la Cruz/Kristopher Fraser (Q32) 19-21, 21-12, 15-8
Paul Lotman/Gabriel Ospina (16, Q25) def. Travis Mewhirter/Myles Muagututia (Q9) 21-12, 21-19
Daniel Dalanhese/Joe Hillman (15, Q12) def. Dylan Maarek/Jeff Samuels (Q5) 24-22, 21-17
Dana Camacho/Dave Palm (Q36) def. Drew Hamilton/Daniel Lindsey (Q20) 21-16, 21-17
Bruno Amorim/Skylar del Sol (Q3) def. Jon Ferrari/Brian Miller (Q14) 21-18, 22-20
David Lee/Silila Tucker (Q6) def. Marshall Brock/Jake Rosener (Q22) 22-20, 21-17
Alex Diaz/Yamil Yanes Rodriguez (Q23) def. Kameron Beans/Angel Dache (Q39) 21-16, 21-19
Eric Beranek/Marty Lorenz (13, Q2) def. Steven Irvin/Hagen Smith (Q15) 21-19, 21-17 Round 4
Paul Lotman/Gabriel Ospina (16, Q25) def. Andy Benesh/Adam Roberts (Q16) 11-21, 21-13, 15-13
Daniel Dalanhese/Joe Hillman (15, Q12) def. Dana Camacho/Dave Palm (Q36) 21-19, 21-17
Bruno Amorim/Skylar del Sol (Q3) def. David Lee/Silila Tucker (Q6) 21-11, 14-21, 16-14
Eric Beranek/Marty Lorenz (13, Q2) def. Alex Diaz/Yamil Yanes Rodriguez (Q23) 21-16, 21-14 Winners Bracket Round 1
Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (1) vs. Paul Lotman/Gabriel Ospina (16, Q25)
Sean Rosenthal/Ricardo Santos (9) vs. Mark Burik/Ian Satterfield (8)
Tim Bomgren/Troy Field (5) vs. Duncan Budinger/Kyle Friend (12)
Eric Beranek/Marty Lorenz (13, Q2) vs. Jeremy Casebeer/Chaim Schalk (4)
Ed Ratledge/Roberto Rodriguez (3) vs. Bruno Amorim/Skylar del Sol (14, Q3)
Maddison McKibbin/Riley McKibbin (11) vs. Avery Drost/Eric Zaun (6)
Chase Frishman/Piotr Marciniak (7) vs. Michael Brunsting/Ty Loomis (10)
Daniel Dalanhese/Joe Hillman (15, Q12) vs. Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (2)
(ALL TIMES EASTERN)
June 17-28, AAU Girls Junior Nationals, Orlando, BallerTV.com
VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE
At Ekaterinburg, Russia
June 18, USA vs. Russia, 10 a.m., FloVolleyball.tv
At Ningbo, China