The AVP Chicago Gold Series Championship has a full field.
Normally this summer, it’s been hard to gather the USA’s best during an Olympic qualification year, where the FIVB takes precedence as top teams seek their best 12 finishes and second-tier teams scramble around the world in an attempt to surpass their rivals and gain direct entry into FIVB events.
But in Chicago, with $300,000 on the line, and no competing international events, the stars have all come out this weekend. Here are five takes from Friday’s action and today’s schedule follows:
1 — The real winners of the day were Billy Kolinske and Kelley Larsen, who got engaged on stadium court during Kolinske’s pre-match warmup.
“I really had no idea that it was coming,” Larsen told VolleyballMag.com’s Michael Gomez. “I would have thought sometime soon, but I never would have guessed right before his match. He’s a very focused guy.”
AVP announcer Mark Schuermann started it off by calling Larsen, the 27-year-old former Pepperdine player, onto stadium court before Kolinske’s match, which confused her.
“I thought, ‘What the heck am I doing out here?,’ then we started peppering, and I wondered, ‘Why am I peppering with you, two minutes before your match?’ ”
Then Kolinske, 33, got down on one knee and proposed on stadium court. Kolinske, who played at Wisconsin-Whitewater, had planned the event for a month, with the AVP and both families in on the proposal. The AVP adjusted the stadium court schedule accordingly.
“I knew that Chicago was her favorite event,” Kolinske said, “and I thought, ‘Both of our families are going to be here, I want to do it here.’ I was going to do it after her match, but then we went to plan B and did it before this one.
“It was super-special and exciting, having both of our families here.”
The couple met three and a half years ago at a Volleyball Vacations South of the Border event in Ixtapa, Mexico. Larsen was overjoyed and excited about the engagement.
“It still hasn’t hit me, I kind of blacked out a little bit.”
Things didn’t go quite as well after that for Kolinske, however. He and partner Eric Beranek, who came out of the the Manhattan Beach qualifier two weeks ago to finish third, were eliminated by Maddison and Riley McKibbin 23-21, 21-14, with Maddison getting six blocks.
Larsen fared better, as she and partner Emily Stockman continue in the winner’s bracket after defeating Traci Callahan and Carly Wopat (21-10, 21-19), and will face Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil Saturday.
2 — Upsets?
You bet, way more than you would expect on a Friday.
Shockingly, fifth-seeded Tim Bomgren and Troy Field went out quickly, losing to No. 12 Ed Ratledge and Skylar del Sol (21-17, 21-19) and then 22nd-seeded Jake Rosener and Christopher Vaughan (21-16, 21-17).
Manhattan Beach Open winners Trevor Crabb and Reid Priddy, the fourth seed, were dropped into the contenders bracket by Priddy’s former indoor national teammate Paul Lotman and Pacific Palisades High School’s Miles Partain (21-17, 21-23, 15-13).
The upsets continued on the women’s side as well. Seventh-seeded Terese Cannon and Kelly Reeves lost to both No. 10 Caitlin Ledoux and Maria Clara Salgado (21-13, 19-21, 15-12) and ninth-seeded Kim Hildreth and Schermerhorn (20-22, 21-18, 15-7).
Hildreth and Schermerhorn were themselves victims after losing to No. 24 qualifiers Katie Horton, who played at Florida State, and Carly Kan, who played at Hawai’i, (13-21, 21-17, 15-9). Callahan and Wopat, seeded 20th, came out of the qualifier to upset No. 13 Delaney Knudsen and Katie Spieler (16-21, 21-16, 18-16).
The No. 15 seed, Kim DiCello and Irene Pollock, withdrew due to a DiCello injury following a loss to No. 18 Falyn Fonoimoana and Alexa Strange (21-11, 21-9).
3 — Saturday’s match to watch features the top two teams in the world when top-seeded April Ross and Alix Klineman play eighth-seeded Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes. Pavan and Humana-Paredes beat their American counterparts win the AVP Manhattan Beach Open just two weeks ago.
They play at 9:20 a.m. Central on stadium court, if you can’t get out to Oak Street, watch it on Amazon Prime.
4 –The Road to Hawai’i: There’s more than just $300,000 at stake this weekend. Berths in the 16-team per gender Hawai’i Open (September 20-22) will be awarded following AVP Chicago. Teams can win berths by winning an AVP event, earning the most points from Gold Series events (best two of three results), two wild cards determined by the AVP, and there will be four teams from the qualifier. In the event that teams win multiple events, additional Gold Series points entries will be granted. More information can be found here.