AUSTIN, Texas — LSU beach volleyball has had it’s best year yet and its successes the past two weekends continued on here Friday at the AVP Austin Open as LSU alums led the charge in what quickly became referred to as “Upset Friday.”
Two weeks ago, LSU finished third at the NCAA championship. And then top pair Claire Coppola and Kristen Nuss won the USAV Collegiate Beach Pairs title last weekend.
Friday, the upsets began when former Tiger Katie Lindelow and partner Lauren Dickson, who both live and train in Austin, shook up the field.
Lindelow and Dickson were the No. 12 seed in the qualifier became the No. 16 seed (out of 16 teams) in Friday’s main draw and wasted no time in upsetting No. 1 Emily Day and Betsi Flint, who were largely considered the favorite to win in Austin with a number of other top teams in Brazil for the Itapema Four Star.
On the men’s side, the No. 1 also went down in the first round, with qualifier squad Paul Lotman and Gabe Ospina beating reigning AVP Huntington champs Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb 18-21, 23-21, 15-13. This marked the first time on the AVP tour that the 16 seed upset the top seed in both the women’s and men’s competition.
But it didn’t stop there.
Former LSU indoor libero and beach player Meghan Mannari and her partner Taylor Nyquist, who also entered the main draw through the qualifier, got by the No. 2 seed Caitlin Ledoux and Geena Urango in three sets in the first round. (Fun facts: Lindelow was a three-year starting outside hitter for the indoor team at LSU and a four-year player for the beach volleyball team, where she anchored the No. 1 spot for three years. Mannari and Lindelow played together at the No. 1s for LSU in 2014.)
Dickson and Lindelow ended up losing their second match of the day to Janelle Allen and Kerri Schuh, but will play Brittany Howard and Kelly Reeves in the contenders bracket on Saturday.
Lotman and Ospina suffered a similar fate, losing to Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos to be relegated to the contenders.
Mannari and Nyquist, who live in the Dallas area, on the other hand, matched up with USC alums Nicolette Martin and Falyn Fonoimoana in the second round, who had also gotten an upset over Amanda Dowdy and Corinne Quiggle in their first-round match. It took three sets and some significant back and forth in the freeze, but Mannari and Nyquist got past their Trojan challengers to remain in the winners bracket heading into Saturday.
After the match, the pair was simply stunned.
Their only goal for the week had been to qualify. They didn’t even bring matching swimsuits with them to Austin, so they were stuck wearing black tank tops to comply with the AVP’s partner matching rules.
“We might be doing some laundry today,” Nyquist joked.
To combat the 6-foot-4 Fonoimoana’s absolutely deadly over-on-two attack, the Dallas squad had to amp up their serving and stay aggressive on offense.
“We talked about serving tougher because every time they would set [Fonoimoana] up on two, that’s when it really got us, so we talked about getting them out of system a little bit more,” Mannari said.
Combatting the USC duo’s fiery energy was a different battle.
“We’re not ones to get super loud and everything, so it was just focusing on us on the court and that’s it,” Nyquist said.
In other upset news, Nyquist and Mannari’s opponents in Saturday’s winners bracket quarterfinals will be No. 14 seed and qualifier team Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn of Florida, who knocked off third-seeded Reeves and Howard and then No. 6 Kim DiCello and Katie Spieler.
Schermerhorn and Hildreth played seven qualifiers in 2018, making it into the main draw twice. Two weeks ago in Huntington they lost in the second round of the qualifier, which made them even more determined to do well in Austin.
“We came into this tournament super confident,” Hildreth said. “We’ve been working really hard. We’ve been playing together for about two and a half years and just kind of putting in the time together. The qualifiers are brutal, so we got stuck in some qualifiers. There’s like 40 amazing women’s teams in the United States, so being in the qualifier is tough, but we made it out and we were ready to totally do some damage in this tournament.”
Terese Cannon and Irene Hester Pollock are the highest remaining seed in the women’s winners bracket at No. 5, and perhaps they managed to avoid catching the upset cooties by trying not to pay attention to what was happening on other courts.
“We saw there were some crazy upsets and I think after a couple of them we were just like, all right, let’s just not look anymore. Let’s just stay in our own lane here,” Pollock said.
Pollock, a volunteer assistant with the UCLA beach team that won the NCAA title, and Cannon, who just finished her final season of USC beach eligibility, might seem like an unlikely pair, but they insist the rivalry between the teams goes on pause in the summers.
With the exception of Crabb and Gibb’s early loss, chalk held in the men’s competition, with the No. 2, 3, and 4 advancing through the winners bracket. No. 9 seed Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos benefitted from the upset of Crabb and Gibb and faced Lotman and Ospina in the second round.
Eventually, the veteran team got the win, but not without Lotman and Ospina coming out hot and holding a lead for most of the first set.
“They came through the qualifier, they upset Jake and Taylor, the one seed here, and at this point, possibly in their mind they’re playing with house money, and they just came out with nothing to lose and firing serves,” Rosenthal said. “We weren’t going to overlook them by any means, but they got us in trouble on their serve really and made some plays and played well.”