Familiar faces won the AVP New York City tournament as April Ross and Alix Klineman and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena hoisted the respective championship trophies on Sunday amidst sunny skies and before great crowds.
Top-seeded Ross and Klineman defeated the youngest team in the draw, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, 21-19, 22-20, while second-seeded Dalhausser and Lucena beat Troy Field and Tim Bomgren 21-14, 21-16.
Earlier Klineman and Ross defeated Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman in a tough 20-22, 21-17, 15-13 semifinal. Dalhausser and Lucena defeated Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb in an epic 23-25, 25-16, 18-16 semifinal.
Field and Bomgren reached the final by defeating Jeremy Casebeer and Chaim Schalk 21-18, 21-16, and then Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos 21-19, 21-19.
Crabb and Gibb beat Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson 21-15, 21-15.
Larsen and Stockman earned their semifinal by defeating Emily Day and Betsi Flint 21-11, 21-17, while Claes and Sponcil came out of the contenders bracket, eliminating both Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon 21-19, 21-18 and Sara Hughes and Summer Ross 21-12, 21-13.
The win is the A-Team’s fifth consecutive AVP victory, their 25th consecutive domestic win. For Ross, AVP New York was a milestone tournament, her 100th domestic event, resulting in 40 domestic wins, while Klineman has six wins in her 19 appearances.
Earlier Ross and Klineman defeated Claes and Sponcil 21-15, 21-12 in the third round. Still, Klineman wasn’t satisfied with their team’s performance.
“Honestly, I felt like a lot of things weren’t really working for us,” Klineman said. “We tried to stay in there, we knew their tendencies, we took a few risks down the stretch and they paid off, I think.”
Ross and Klineman were down late in both sets, 17-19 and 16-19. In the first set, they won five of the last six to close the set, and in set two they sided out and scored three consecutive points to gain the lead before Klineman hit a high float serve at Sponcil that tickled the back line for the victory.
Ross knows that there’s work to be done to keep the A-Team relevant in the Olympic qualification process.
“We do celebrate the highs like this,” Ross said. “We’re going to appreciate this, but we’re also going to look at the fact there’s so much stuff that we could have done better on the court today and we’ll dissect that and take that to our next event and use that to get better.”
For Klineman, much of that development has been forced upon them.
“Recently, April’s seen a few more serves, and I’m getting comfortable in that new role, figuring out ways to help her. My setting hasn’t been as consistent as I want it to be recently, so that’s a constant focus, pulling is a constant focus, blocking, getting into their face, changing the game.”
Ross credited Claes and Sponcil, who at a combined 45 years of age (Claes is 23, Sponcil 22) were the youngest main draw team in the tournament.
“They’re very, very good, and I think they play with a lot of confidence. They both have a ton of experience, playing four years in college, and Kelly on the pro tour for a couple of years. We played them in the quarterfinals and they didn’t play like that.
“To see that level is eye-opening, and we’ll definitely be watching out for them in future tournaments.
The A-Team is already headed to the FIVB four-star event in Warsaw, Poland. They are now in the meat of the schedule with the World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, the Gstaad five-star, the Espinho, Portugal, four-star, the Tokyo four-star test event, the Vienna five-star event, and then finally home August 5.
Dalhausser and Lucena have the same schedule, winning and then racing off to their own intercontinental flight to Warsaw. Dalhausser and Lucena won the final handily, with breezy conditions hampering the ball control of Field and Bomgren, with the result being tight sets that Dalhausser could control.
“The sets kept drifting tight,” Dalhausser said, “and I was able to put my hands on the ball. When it’s tight it makes the blocker’s job a little easier.”
Dalhausser and Lucena have been climbing the ladder in 2019, with a fifth place in Huntington and a third in Austin. The constant: late-tournament losses to Crabb and Gibb.
It was sweet to get one of those back after they knocked out Crabb and Gibb in an exciting three-set semifinal, Lucena said.
“I thought that we’ve been playing well, but we’ve run into Jake and Taylor twice, it’s been high level matches every time we play them, and it’s pretty sweet to be on the winning side of it.”
One of the difficulties is that Dalhausser and Lucena haven’t been able to practice much between their travel schedule and the four-hour difference between Lucena’s home in Tallahassee and Dalhausser’s home in Orlando.
With the same Hamburg-Gstaad-Espinho-Tokyo-Vienna travel schedule as Ross and Klineman, Lucena thinks that the tournament grind will improve their ball control.
“It’s stressful, but then we find our groove, and we’ll be touching the ball a lot more, and then those close plays that haven’t been going our way will start to fall our way.”