AVP Manhattan Beach: Year’s biggest tourney, fully loaded once more

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Derek Olson-AVP Manhattan
Derek Olson stretches out/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

The countdown, on Instagram at least, has been on since day 10.

Really, it’s been on since August 20 of last year, when Trevor Crabb and partner Sean Rosenthal fell to Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in the finals of the AVP Manhattan Beach Open. It marked Crabb’s fourth final of the year, though it has also been his last American final since.

Now Crabb’s favorite tournament is back, playing with one of his Hawai’i childhood friends, Tri Bourne, who’s returning for his first tournament after nearly two years without playing competitively. The Manhattan Beach Open begins Thursday.

“He asked me if we wanted to just charge it, do Manhattan and Chicago,” Crabb said. “And I was thinking, if we’re going to do Hawai’i anyways, might as well get some good time in together. Just wing it. Go for it.”

And what better place to make the debut than in Manhattan Beach, the biggest tournament of a non-Olympic year?

“I couldn’t be more stoked to play an event in my whole four and a half years on tour,” Crabb said. “I don’t think I’ve been more excited to play an event. Each year, Manhattan, for me, is by far my favorite tournament and it’s been good to me as well, made Sunday every year, beaten the one seed every tournament so far. There’s one person that has been on the opposite side of the one side this entire four years, and that’s Jake Gibb. I own you in Manhattan.”

And, of course, before Crabb and Bourne can make their debut, there comes the qualifier.

Men’s qualifier preview
Paul Lotman, Derek Olson: Olson! It’s been a full year since we’ve seen Olson in an AVP, dating back to Manhattan of 2017, when he and Brian Cook — after dispensing of Skyler McCoy and yours truly — fell in the final round of the qualifier. Now the Cal assistant coach is turning to Paul Lotman, who’s coming off his first main draw of the year.

Michael Boag, Bobby Jacobs: Boag has had a fascinating past few months. In Seattle, he and Skylar del Sol were the best team in the qualifier, winning four matches in eight sets before legitimately challenging John Hyden and Theo Brunner and pushing Ed Ratledge and Rafu Rodriguez to three sets in the main draw.

And then he lost in the first round of San Francisco, swapped partners, to Bobby Jacobs, and made another main draw. Now he and Jacobs, a 6-foot-6 blocker, are back for Manhattan.

Drew Punjabi, Patrick Bolton: Hermosa was the AVP season debut for both Punjabi and Bolton, and what a start it was. Beginning at Q19, they upset Dillon Lesniak and Garrett Wessberg and very nearly pulled off a bigger upset over Ben Vaught and Branden Clemens, winning the first set, 21-16, before succumbing in the next two.

Jorge Martinez, Philip Burrow: Good ol’ Jorge. One of my favorite people in Southern California, and also one of my favorite guys to play with, Martinez has popped up out of his volleyball retirement hole and didn’t see his shadow, so he’s OK to run at least Manhattan this year. Martinez has some wizard ball control and, in spite of a vertical that at this point in his retirement is likely somewhere around a stick of gum, is a phenomenal side out player. Burrow, a former NVL player, is a solid complement for him, both physical and an excellent setter.

Eric Beranek, Matt Prosser: The padawan and the Jedi master are back together once more. Their last tournament together was in Austin, where both played excellent volleyball and lost in the third round in a match that could have gone either way at any point in the 80 minutes in which it was played. Beranek has had something of a breakout year thus far, making main draws in Seattle and Hermosa and earning a main draw win against Ian Satterfield and Mark Burik. Now he’s back with Prosser, who is both a fantastic volleyball player and better human being.

Nathan Yang, Steven Irvin: Yang is now one year removed from his first AVP main draw, and though the results haven’t been there just yet this season, he’s been close. In Austin, he and Irvin beat Spencer Sauter and Adam Roberts in the most epic match of the year, main draw or otherwise, a 21-23, 23-21, 16-14 win that lasted an hour and 42 minutes and required a freeze comeback from down 14-7. Though no main draws for either this year, this is a team that could easily make it through any bracket.

Ryan Meehan, Christian Honer: Perhaps by the time the qualifier begins, Meehan will have come down to earth from his 6-man glory. At 6-foot-8 with good hands, Meehan is a good fit for Honer, a jumpy, energetic Arizonan with nothing but positive vibes. They pushed Duncan Budinger and Kevin McColloch in Hermosa and, given they’ve stuck together for three tournaments now, should only be better for Manhattan.

Lev Priima, Jacob Landel: The representatives from NorCal, Priima and Landel have played four CBVA opens this year and have made at least the semifinals in all four. They’ve won their last two, in Santa Cruz and Hermosa, and could very well take that momentum and bring it full steam ahead into Manhattan.

Ric Cervantes, Shane Cervantes: The Cervantes hermanos — yet another sibling duo who could be featured in a main draw of an AVP. They made the finals of a CBVA open in Manhattan Beach a little less than a month ago, and Ric, the younger of the two, landed one of the bigger upsets of the Hermosa Beach qualifier, beating Skylar del Sol and Bruno Amorim in what was their first round.

Women’s qualifier preview
Tory Paranagua, Jace Pardon: Both Paranagua and Pardon, former Florida State All-Americans, are turning to their third partner in four events, still looking for that right mesh of personality and skill. This could very well be it. At 5-foot-11, Paranagua should be an ideal fit for Pardon, a full-time defender.

Kim Smith, Corinne Quiggle: Smith is on the heels of consecutive main draws, coming out of the qualifier in San Francisco and slipping straight into Hermosa. Quiggle, meanwhile, has played the last two with Agnieszka Pregowska, making it through San Francisco. In Smith, she’ll be getting an extra four inches of height on the block.

Abby Van Winkle, Megan Muret: The two Bruins recently made a final in a CBVA in Ocean Beach, a promising bit of momentum heading into Manhattan considering they played against and beat a number of teams in the qualifier. Muret already has one main draw under her belt this season, in Seattle with Alexis Filippone, while Van Winkle’s only crack at a qualifier thus far came in Hermosa a few weeks ago.

Lexi McKeown, Nicole Reinking: Reinking — known better as Nicci than Nicole — a freshman at Long Beach State, is one of those precocious sorts who earned her AAA midway through her teens. She qualified for the USAV Collegiate Beach Championships alongside Sasha Karelov and beat LSU’s Emmy Allen and Megan Davenport to come out of her pool in second. On that same date, McKeown, partnered with Peri Brennan, claimed the Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League title, the first team to knock Mira Costa off the top of the podium. They’re young, sure, but already enjoying plenty of success.

Cassandra Strickland, Litara Keil: Though she’s still new to the beach, Strickland has no shortage of volleyball acumen. The former Washington Husky earned the Pac-12 Libero of the Year nod as a junior, and she graduated second in career aces, fourth in digs, and set her own record for career sets played. Similarly, Keil’s indoor background is impressive, leaving LMU as the all-time leader in block assists, second in total blocks and seventh in kills.

It’s only a matter of time before that translates onto the beach.

Katie Lindelow, Kristen Nuss: Nuss, who will be a junior at LSU, was the recipient of a wild card into Hermosa’s main draw. Had her and partner Claire Coppola been in the qualifier, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if they made it out, as evidenced by both main-draw matches being close, with Aurora Davis and Bree Scarbrough slipping by, 16-14, in the third. Lindelow, also an LSU product, hasn’t been able to break through just yet. Her closest opportunity came in the final round of AVP Austin, where she lost in three sets to Nicolette Martin and Sarah Day.

Elise Zappia, Jessica Gaffney: Zappia left UCLA as a national champion, and she penned a nice piece for DailyBruin.com on her journey in Westwood. Gaffney, too, has quite the accolade of her own: the lowest seed to ever make an AVP main draw. In her first career AVP, the Cal Bear crashed the bracket, beginning as the 84 seed and playing 10 –- 10!! –- sets in the Hermosa qualifier to make a main draw.

Gigi Hernandez, Deahna Kraft: Two of the more promising players on Pepperdine’s roster, Hernandez and Kraft were both named to All-American lists in 2018, Hernandez a second-team selection for VolleyMob, Kraft a second-team selection for VolleyballMag.com. This past season, Kraft became the first Wave to be named the WCC Defender of the Year.

Piper Monk-Heidrich, Jaden Whitmarsh: If the last name of the latter looks familiar, it should: Jaden Whitmarsh is the daughter of Mike Whitmarsh, 1996 silver gold medalist at the Atlanta Games. She’s more than that, of course, a talented 18-year-old who, while not having made it through a qualifier yet, has pushed several decent teams in the two events she has played. In Huntington earlier this year, her and Monk-Heidrich, winner of the AVP First in Hermosa Beach, two took Madison and McKenna Witt to 22-20 in the first set.

Alexa Micek, Lindsey Fuller: I think, but I can’t be sure, that Micek is the first NC State volleyball player I’ve ever written on, so there’s that fun little piece of ACC homeland for me (it should be noted that in 2011 she also had three aces against my Maryland Terps). The former member of the Wolfpack is playing her first event with Fuller, who won the NVL’s Most Improved in 2014.

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