No American teams are competing on the FIVB World tour this weekend, resulting in a rare occurrence in an Olympic year: A relatively full field in AVP San Francisco. Only Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena, Tri Bourne/John Hyden and Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat are missing.
As a result, a few teams accustomed to the main draw have been relegated to the qualifier, creating the most challenging qualifier of the year. Let’s take a look at the top four teams per gender:
Q1: Ty Loomis/Marty Lorenz: Loomis/Lorenz have only played one event together, but did quite well at Mason last year, finishing third. Lorenz has been in the main draw in all four events this year, finishing as high as seventh with Adam Roberts. Loomis has made the main draw in two of three events this year, with a ninth-place finish. Lorenz blocking is greatly improved of late. Their quarter of the draw has fewer dangerous teams than the other quarters; Loomis/Lorenz ought to advance.
Q2: Paul Araiza/Alejandro Parra: Araiza/Parra have some excellent results, with a seventh and a ninth this year. Their one aberration was a 29th, when Cody Kessel put on a blocking display in Huntington to put them out of the qualifier 20-22, 19-21. The team is playing well coming in and has good history together.
Q3: Maddison/Riley McKibbin: The McKibbin brothers have two ninths and a 13th so far this year. Last weekend they were put out of the tournament by finalists Jeremy Casebeer/Sean Rosenthal 29-31 in the third set in what might have been the most entertaining match of the tournament. This team is just a couple breaks short of making a deep tournament run, but first they must make it through a tough qualifier.
Q4: Mike Brunsting/Chase Frishman: a true rookie this year, Frishman has already garnered a seventh and ninth place finish. The speed of his reactions on hard hit balls is impressive. The projected matchup between Brunsting/Frishman and Miles Evans/Spencer McLachlin could be the best of the qualifier.
Q1: Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes: Claes and Hughes? In the qualifier? After consecutive third place finishes in New York? Yep, life is not fair. Especially for the other teams in their quarter. There are several excellent teams that will give them a battle, but judging from their recent results Claes/Hughes will likely advance to the main draw and do some damage there.
Q2: Sarah Day/Jessica Stubinski: This team has a seventh and 13th so far this year. Last weekend they were unlucky enough to run up against Angela Bensend/Geena Urango in the first round of the contenders bracket.
I am really looking forward to playing with Jessica in San Francisco in front of my family and friends., said Day. My husband grew up in the East Bay and lived in the city before we met. Ive been fortunate enough to see the city through the eyes of a local, so it has a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to hit up some of my favorite restaurants after the tournament. Im a foodie at heart. Going through the qualifier is going to be a good challenge for us.
Day offered perspective on the young teams.
Underrated teams now are fierce competitors who have recently graduated from college and have been trained by some of the world’s best retired athletes. That’s no joke!
With that being said, we will have to play a clean game and take care of business. Jess and I are a newer team and we need more ball touches together and what better way to get those reps and game like situations than going through the qualifier.
Their quarter is a difficult, balanced bracket; look out for the Witt twins (Madison and McKenna). They seem poised to break out. Still, Day/Stubinski are the class of the quarter, with strong odds to advance.
Q3: Lynne Galli/Briana Hinga: Galli/Hinga have a 17th and 21st this year. Granted, this team has had difficult draws, but it has not found the answers yet. In Seattle Galli/Hinga stalled against Karissa Cook/Brittany Tiegs. If the seeds hold true they will face Tiegs and Jace Pardon, a hot team coming off a seventh-place finish in New York.
Q4: Meg Dawson/Delaney Knudsen: Dawson/Knudsen have a 13th and 17th this year (Dawson/Knudsen were unfortunate to encounter Claes/Hughes in the New York qualifier). The team is playing well; they forced Bensend/Urango to a third set in Seattle.
They will need to problem solve to get out of their quarter, with difficult teams like Aurora Davis/Bree Scarbrough, Jess Clausen/Diane Copenhagen, and Agnieska Pregowska/Jessica Sykora.
Qualification starts Thursday and runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Pier 30/32 in the Embarcadero.
General admission is free, but premium tickets can be purchased here:
The live stream can be viewed here, and the finals will be shown on Sunday on NBC from noon to 1:30 p.m. Pacific.