Qualifying begins as AVP Chicago marks end of domestic pro beach volleyball season

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Nemanja Komar-AVP Chicago 9/1/2021
Nemanja Komar runs down a dig in Wednesday qualifying/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

The AVP Chicago Open is the third event conducted this summer by the domestic pro beach volleyball tour and promises to be the most competitive of the three. The respective fields are loaded.

Qualifying began Wednesday and continues Thursday at North Street Beach, with main-draw action getting under way Friday at Oak Street Beach on Lake Michigan.

There are plenty of intriguing storylines sprinkled throughout both brackets.

For the men, seven of the 24 main-draw players — Jake Gibb, Casey Patterson, Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, Ricardo Santos, John Hyden, and Ed Ratledge — are in their 40s, and Billy Allen turns 40 in October.

Santos (46) and Hyden (48) comprise the most, er, experienced team in main draw AVP history. According to Dennis Wagner of BVBinfo.com, Santos and Hyden exceed the previous record set by Scott Ayakatubby and Brent Frohoff in AVP Manhattan Beach 2008 by over six years.

There are 11 — count ‘em — Olympians in the field: Dalhausser, Lucena, Gibb, Patterson, Taylor Crabb, Bourne, Chaim Schalk, Santos, Hyden, Paul Lotman, and David Lee.

Dalhausser and Lucena, both 41, finished fifth in Rio 2016 and ninth in Tokyo, with Dalhausser winning gold in Beijing and ninth in London with Todd Rogers. Both have retired from international play.

Gibb, 45, is a four-time Olympian who said when the Tokyo Games ended he was done with international competition and hinted that he might retire completely after this season. He finished fifth in both 2008 and 2012 with Sean Rosenthal, 19th in 2016 with Casey Patterson, and ninth in 2020 with Tri Bourne. A positive COVID test disqualified Taylor Crabb (I’m counting Taylor as an Olympian, since he qualified but wasn’t able to participate), with Bourne stepping in at the last minute.

Schalk competed for Canada in 2016 with Ben Saxton, finishing ninth. 

Santos is one of the most decorated beach players of all time, a four-time Olympian with a full set of medals: 2000 silver with Ze Marco de Melo, 2004 gold with Emmanuel Rego, 2008 bronze with Rego and a 2012 fifth with Pedro Cunha.

Santos’ partner, John Hyden, is a two-time indoor volleyball Olympian, finishing ninth in 1996 Atlanta and 11th in 2000 Sydney as an outside hitter.

Paul Lotman, seeded first in the qualifier with precocious youngster Miles Partain, competed indoors in London 2012, finishing fifth.

One of Lotman’s teammates was Lee, who with Kyle Friend is seeded third in the qualifier. Lee started for the USA as a middle blocker, bringing home indoor USA gold in 2008 and bronze in 2016.

Patterson and Chase Budinger won the first AVP event, just after the Olympics, in Atlanta three weeks ago. Then two weeks ago, they lost to Bourne and Trevor Crabb in the AVP Manhattan Beach final.

In Chicago there’s the normal amount of partner shuffling that you’d expect. With Rafu Rodriguez absent, Miles Evans is playing with Piotr Marciniak in Chicago, and Avery Drost is going with Eric Beranek instead of last week’s Canadian Grant O’Gorman.

And the qualifier? It’s a bear of a two-day, 65-team bracket from which just four teams will advance. Accordingly, some of the weekend’s best volleyball will be played at North Street beach Wednesday and Thursday.

In the women’s field, can anyone beat April Ross and Alix Klineman? The A Team didn’t play in Atlanta after winning Olympic gold, but then won it all at Manhattan Beach. They serve as tough as anyone in the world, Ross puts away every ball she gets her hands on, and Klineman seemingly spikes from the top of the stands.

If anything, their only vulnerabilities are early in tournaments. They dropped the opening set in pool to the Netherlands’ Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink in Tokyo (20-22, 21-17, 15-5), and Geena Urango and Falyn Fonoimoana got the best of them in the the second set in Manhattan (21-19, 15-21, 15-9).

The last time they lost? 

If you don’t count them withdrawing against Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vérgé-Depre to finish fifth in FIVB Ostrava, their last loss was to Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sochi in May.

Speaking of Team Slaes, the other USA women’s beach Olympians, when they are loose, goofy, and relaxed – and with Claes and Sponcil, that’s pretty often – they’re one of the most difficult teams in the world to beat. 

They tied for ninth in Tokyo and that appears to be just the tip of the iceberg of the potential of this team.

Two Canadian Olympians are in the field. Sarah Pavan is playing with American Emily Stockman, while Brandie Wilkerson, is again playing with American Sara Hughes.

Pavan is one of the most dominating blockers on the planet, coupled with Emily Stockman for Chicago. That team has the altitude to win it all.

Wilkerson, the other southpaw Canadian blocker, placed second, third, and fifth in last year’s AVP Long Beach bubble. They’re overdue and will break through. The only question is when.

LSU products Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss won AVP Atlanta, their first major pro victory. TKN, as they’re calling themselves, came out of the Atlanta qualifier to win it. At 6-foot-4, Kloth has the altitude to compete with the very best in the world. And if you haven’t seen Nuss play, her volleyball IQ and vision are next-level. She redefines the limits of a 5-6 defender.  In Manhattan Beach, their only losses were to Klineman-Ross and Claes-Sponcil (they took Claes-Sponcil to their limits in an epic 39-37, 21-15 match).

Veteran Brazilians Larissa Franca and Liliane Maestrini have moved back into the spotlight after getting through the MBO qualifier all the way to semifinals. Franca, the 5-9, 39-year old defender, is one of sport’s greats. She was FIVB Best Defensive Player (2009, 2012, 2014), FIVB Best Hitter (2008, 2010), FIVB Best Offensive Player (2015, 2016, 2017), FIVB Best Setter (2007-11, 2013-14, 2016-17). Don’t be surprised to see them again this Sunday.

All the action will be shown on Peacock Premium. 

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Results courtesy of BVBinfo.com
MEN
Qualifier bracket
Round 1
Enrique Barajas/Ryan VonSchlobohm (Q57) def. Will Buchanan/Eric Khozindar (Q56) 21-16, 14-21, 16-14
Michael Klentzman/Nathan Pugh (Q48) def. Daniel Collado/Dave Earnest (Q65) 21-18, 21-12
Spencer Loch/Alex Ukkelberg (Q49) def. Logan Fuglestad/Jon Gubera (Q64) 21-11, 21-16
Evan Gaskill/Hunter Sade (Q61) def. Casey Pieper/Cosby Sand (Q52) 21-11, 21-18
Zachary Greene/Guille Jimenez (Q60) def. Adam Curry/Abel Gustafson (Q53) 21-14, 21-10
Ian Barker/Jason Camacho (Q54) def. Luke Lentin/Michael Wright (Q59) 21-15, 21-19
Jake Kurzrock/Rob McLean (Q51) def. Tyler Jobe/Dalton Sayers (Q62) 21-14, 21-19
Ben Andre/Austin Banks (Q50) def. Chase Holderby/Shane Holderby (Q63) by Forfeit
Bobby Jones/Jordan Lichtsinn (Q55) def. Dan Newman/Brice Paxson (Q58) by Forfeit
Round 2
Alex Diaz/TJ Jurko (Q25) def. Enrique Barajas/Ryan VonSchlobohm (Q57) 21-15, 21-16
Roscoe Nelms/Brandon Severyn (Q41) def. Jordan Gladstone/Ryan Smith (Q40) 22-20, 21-17
Alex Storm/Charles VanRees (Q33) def. Michael Klentzman/Nathan Pugh (Q48) 21-15, 21-15
Spencer Loch/Alex Ukkelberg (Q49) def. Ian Bicko/Josue Castillo (Q32) 22-20, 19-21, 15-11
Nolan Albrecht/Kevin Knight (Q29) def. Evan Gaskill/Hunter Sade (Q61) 17-21, 21-18, 15-8
Joshua Bigford/David Evans (Q36) def. Jerel Deacon/Francisco Quesada-Paneque (Q45) 22-20, 25-27, 15-13
Mark Bucknam/Jake Fleming (Q37) def. Philip Burrow/Christopher Shipps (Q44) 21-14, 21-15
Devon Burki/John Schwengel (Q28) def. Zachary Greene/Guille Jimenez (Q60) 20-22, 21-16, 15-8
Pete DiVenere/Marty Lorenz (Q27) def. Ian Barker/Jason Camacho (Q54) 21-10, 21-18
Matt Cyr/Oren Zyndorf (Q38) def. Chris Ferguson/Robert Vipond (Q43) 21-11, 21-8
Matt Shassol/Roger Subervi (Q46) def. Christian Smith/Nick Smith (Q35) 19-21, 21-16, 15-11
Jake Kurzrock/Rob McLean (Q51) def. John Hamilton/William Rodriguez (Q30) by Forfeit
Nemanja Komar/Bryce Mayer (Q31) def. Ben Andre/Austin Banks (Q50) 22-20, 21-19
Kyle Ohman/Justin Phipps (Q47) def. Matt Baleiko/Ray Birtcher (Q34) 21-13, 18-21, 15-10
Tyler Carnes/Logan Kerlin (Q39) def. Spencer Gaston/Larry Salefsky (Q42) 21-0, 21-0
Kameron Beans/Kristopher Fraser (Q26) def. Bobby Jones/Jordan Lichtsinn (Q55) 21-15, 21-8
Round 3
Alex Diaz/TJ Jurko (Q25) def. Roscoe Nelms/Brandon Severyn (Q41) 21-18, 21-17
Spencer Loch/Alex Ukkelberg (Q49) def. Alex Storm/Charles VanRees (Q33) 30-32, 21-18, 15-6
Joshua Bigford/David Evans (Q36) def. Nolan Albrecht/Kevin Knight (Q29) 21-14, 21-15
Devon Burki/John Schwengel (Q28) def. Mark Bucknam/Jake Fleming (Q37) 21-16, 21-16
Matt Cyr/Oren Zyndorf (Q38) def. Pete DiVenere/Marty Lorenz (Q27) 21-12, 21-19
Jake Kurzrock/Rob McLean (Q51) def. Matt Shassol/Roger Subervi (Q46) 21-12, 18-21, 15-13
Nemanja Komar/Bryce Mayer (Q31) def. Kyle Ohman/Justin Phipps (Q47) 21-17, 21-19
Kameron Beans/Kristopher Fraser (Q26) def. Tyler Carnes/Logan Kerlin (Q39) 21-10, 20-22, 15-10
Round 4
Paul Lotman/Miles Partain (Q1) vs.
Tomas Goldsmith/Max Martin (Q16) vs. Robbie Page/Hagen Smith (Q17)
Andrew Dentler/Jon Ferrari (Q9) vs. Timothy Brewster/Dylan Zacca (Q24)
Cody Caldwell/Dave Palm (Q8) vs.
Jacob Landel/Lev Priima (Q5) vs.
Travis Mewhirter/Adam Roberts (Q12) vs. Dillon Cox/Jeff Samuels (Q21)
John-Michael Plummer/Garrett Wessberg (Q13) vs. Raffe Paulis/Aaren Rice (Q20)
Michael Groselle/David Vander Meer (Q4) vs.
Kyle Friend/David Lee (Q3) vs.
Adam Gustafson/Kyle Radde (Q14) vs. Marshall Brock/Spencer Sauter (Q19)
Bruno Amorim/Michael Boag (Q11) vs. Jonathan Drake/Chris Luers (Q22)
Peter Connole/Silila Tucker (Q6) vs.
Jake Rosener/Christopher Vaughan (Q7) vs.
Brian Miller/Ben Vaught (Q10) vs. Caleb Kwekel/Ryan Lehmann (Q23)
Ryan Meehan/Ian Satterfield (Q15) vs. Bradley Connors/Brett Greiner (Q18)
Chase Frishman/Piotr Marciniak (Q2) vs
Winners bracket
Round 1
Chase Budinger/Casey Patterson (1) vs.
Skylar del Sol/Ed Ratledge (9) vs. Billy Allen/Andy Benesh (8)
Theo Brunner/Chaim Schalk (5) vs.
Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (3) vs.
Eric Beranek/Avery Drost (11) vs. Tim Bomgren/Jeremy Casebeer (6)
John Hyden/Ricardo Santos (7) vs. Miles Evans/Troy Field (10)
WOMEN
Qualifier bracket
Round 1
Charlie Ekstrom/Julianna Napoleon (Q33) def. Colleen McGuire/Amy Reichel (Q32) 12-21, 21-9, 15-8 (0:47)
Kylie Bryan/Hannah Wentland (Q36) def. Denise De Vine/Crystal Meadows (Q29) 21-16, 21-16 (0:38)
Aly Fox/Lindsey Fuller (Q28) def. Sandi Carlson/Tiffany Snow (Q37) 21-19, 21-3 (0:35)
Lindsey Knudsen/Lisa Reed (Q35) def. Bailey Showalter/Jae-Lyn Visscher (Q30) 15-21, 21-14, 16-14 (1:03)
Jessie Carnes/Kristin Heldt (Q31) def. Mabyn Thomas/Kaileigh Truslow-Neffendorf (Q34) 21-12, 21-19 (0:42)
Round 2
Kimberly Hildreth/Kathryn Hogan (Q1) vs. Kylie Bryan/Hannah Wentland (Q36)
Tiffany Creamer/Carolyn Meister (Q16) vs. Katie Horton/Hailey Luke (Q17)
Carly Kan/Chelsea Rice (Q9) vs. Courtney Baleiko/Adrianna Nora (Q24)
Savannah Simo/Abby Van Winkle (Q8) vs. Melissa Powell/Jessica Wooten (Q25)
Larissa Maestrini/Liliane Maestrini (Q5) vs. Aly Fox/Lindsey Fuller (Q28)
Aurora Davis/Toni Rodriguez (Q12) vs. Ashley Pater/Bree Scarbrough (Q21)
Katie Dickens/Jennifer Keddy (Q13) vs. Megan Gebhard/Kaitlyn Leary (Q20)
Falyn Fonoimoana/Geena Urango (Q4) vs. Jessie Carnes/Kristin Heldt (Q31)
Mackenzie Ponnet/Sheila Shaw (Q3) vs. Charlie Ekstrom/Julianna Napoleon (Q33)
Delaney Clesen/Lauren DeTurk (Q14) vs. Nicole Drake/Jessica Jendryk (Q19)
Annika Rowland/Teegan Van Gunst (Q11) vs. Victoria Dennis/Kahlee York (Q22)
Delaney Mewhirter/Sara Putt (Q6) vs. Sophie Moore/Natalie Myszkowski (Q27)
Cecilia Agraz/Janelle Allen (Q7) vs. Katie Lindstrom/Regan McGuire (Q26)
Iya Lindahl/Lydia Smith (Q10) vs. Rachel Krabacher/Tani Stephens (Q23)
Macy Jerger/Devon Newberry (Q15) vs. Josephine Kremer/Payton Rund (Q18)
Jessica Gaffney/Maria Clara Salgado (Q2) vs. Lindsey Knudsen/Lisa Reed (Q35)
Winnners bracket
Round 1
Alix Klineman/April Ross (1) vs.
Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss (9) vs. Terese Cannon/Molly Turner (8)
Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil (5) vs.
Sarah Pavan/Emily Stockman (3) vs.
Emily Hartong/Corinne Quiggle (11) vs. Kelley Kolinske/Susannah Muno (6)
Karissa Cook/Kelly Reeves (7) vs. Megan Rice/Sarah Schermerhorn (10)

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