Pro beach volleyball returns this week with the start of the three-week AVP Champions Cup Series in Long Beach (July 17-19, July 24-26, July 31-August 2). This is part of a series profiling new teams for 2020.

Whether Allie Wheeler knew it or not, she had been preparing for a random Friday morning call from Corinne Quiggle — it could have been anyone, but it was Quiggle whose name popped up on her phone — for the past, oh, 24 years, the time it has taken her to become an ultimate utility woman in beach volleyball.

When the coronavirus hit and everyone’s preseason partnership plans were suddenly thrown to the wind, Wheeler found herself in a unique and enviable position. No matter what type of partner was needed, Wheeler could fill that gap.

As a 5-foot-11 blocker, she had won multiple national championships at USC as well as a number of top-10 finishes on the AVP. But she also earned equally impressive finishes as a defender, and had competed in multiple main draws as a split-blocker. She’d had success on the right side and on the left.

Essentially: Whatever someone now needed in a partner — and many players were suddenly in need of someone, anyone, with points and talent — be it a left or ride side, blocker or defender, beach player or snow player or whatever, Wheeler would fit the bill. It’s partly what had her at the top of Quiggle’s mind when she needed a quick fill-in at a Friday practice, just prior to the deadline for registration of the AVP Champion’s Cup.

“It was definitely a little stressful,” said the 5-10 Quiggle, who was going to play the season with Falyn Fonoimoana, but Fonoimoana decided to sit the year out because of health precautions. “I know Falyn had to do what she needed to do with her family and all that, and just the uncertainty when it all came out, ‘Am I going to have to find a partner?’ But I honestly don’t think it could have worked out better.”

The two know each other’s games as well as anyone. As long as Quiggle can recall playing beach volleyball, she can recall playing against Wheeler.

“Even when we play against each other we respect each other’s games so well,” Quiggle said. Even in college, when Pepperdine would play USC, they were matched up on the same court for two straight seasons.

That familiarity led them to partnering for AVP Austin in 2018, which seems eons ago in the grand picture of their quickly blossoming careers. They fell in the final round of the qualifier, to Janelle Allen and Kerri Schuh, and they both laughed when thinking about how far along they’ve come since.

“We’ve definitely come a long way,” Quiggle said.

Which is part of the fun of forming a new partnership: The learning curve is steep, as each player learns the nuances of playing with the other.

“It’s really cool when you start playing with a new person,” Quiggle said. “It’s a little different playing style and we get exponentially better every practice. There’s a ton of progress that we make every practice, which is really cool to have.”

How much progress has been made will be evident on Friday’s qualifier for the AVP Champions Cup, where they are seeded sixth.

“Covid was a change of plans for everything,” said Wheeler, who recently launched her own business, AW Consulting. “Honestly, everything always works out in some way, shape or form. I firmly believe that.”

Read our other new AVP Champions Cup Partnerships features:

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