Friday was near perfect for volleyball at Oak Street Beach on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago where the AVP is concluding its 2016 run. Even if its biggest star, Kerri Walsh Jennings, was boycotting to protest rules changes.
But at the AVP Championships, the fans, officials, players, and announcers all acclimated reasonably quickly to the new rules. The net dribbler? Gone, replaced by a single let serve. There were at least two instances when the net dribbler was replayed only to be replaced by a second net dribbler, the second being a service fault.
The switch to old-school sideout scoring did add drama to a few matches. In particular, Terri Del Conte/Majo Orellana were up 14-7 in the deciding third set against Brittany Hochevar and Kristin Hildebrand. Despite Del Conte/Orellana having several swings to end the match along the way, Hochevar/Hildebrand made it close before succumbing 15-13.
It is generally a more dramatic ending when a match ends on an extended rally rather than a first ball sideout. For example, Leah DeKok/Amanda Wiggins vs. Caitlin Ledoux/Xi Zhang finished dramatically in an 18-16 third set with a number of momentum shifts reminiscent of the old-school finals of the 80’s and 90’s.
On the other hand, both of the matches mentioned did add about 10 minutes of play and subsequently threw off the schedule a bit. Overall, it seemed that the new rule added two minutes or so to each match.
Despite representatives of the AVP sending out a news release to the media Thursday warning not to speak to athletes without prior approval — a first — we heard from the players the most-often cited reason for their disagreement with the new rules is that the rules should be as consistent as possible as compared to the FIVB world tour. After all, the USA is not dominating the world volleyball scene these days, unless bronze really is the new gold.
Nonetheless, 2016 USA Olympians Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat, Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena and Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson, along with bronze-medalist April Ross, who teamed with Kelly Reeves, all advanced to Saturday’s action. Play in the double-elimination main-draw continues Saturday morning. Sunday’s finals will be televised live on NBC at noon Central.
Among the results from Friday:
Top-seeded Lane Carico and Summer Ross defeated Leah DeKok and Amanda Wiggins, and will take on Betsi Flint and Kelley Larsen. Ross and Reeves downed Lynne Galli and Briana Hinga and will next play Jennifer Fopma and Emily Stockman. The team of Fendrick and Sweat was surprised by Jace Pardon and Brittany Tiegs and will need to work their way through the contenders bracket to reach the semifinals. Second-seeded Kim DiCello and Kendra VanZwieten will play the other Friday winners, Ali McColloch and Geena Urango.
For the men, top-seeded Gibb/Patterson downed Kevin McColloch and Roberto Rodriguez-Bertran and will face Jeremy Casebeer and Sean Rosenthal. The second-seeded Crabb brothers, Taylor and Trevor, defeated Michael Brunsting and Chase Frishman and will play Stafford Slick and Ty Tramblie. Dalhausser/Lucena swept Ty Loomis and Marty Lorenz and play Ryan Doherty/John Mayer.