It looks like the AVP is saving a bit in the prize money department this year.

This is all thanks to the new wave of young stars and never was that more apparent than last weekend at AVP San Francisco.

The women’s side of the tournament featured two teams of players who have not yet finished their collegiate careers which means (according to NCAA rules) they cant take anything above what they spend in order to participate.

NCAA Beach champions Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes of USC came all the way from the qualifier to earn themselves a second-place finish. Now get this: they are the first domestic women’s team to take one set from Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross in 66 matches! That happened in the semifinals, when Hughes/Claes got everyone’s attention.

The other college team to earn a main-draw birth was the Witt twins from the University of Arizona. They ended up ninth after beating Dowdy and Stockman, a team with world tour experience.

I made a prediction months ago and I cant wait to see it come true. I truly believe that within the next five years, USA beach volleyball will have five of the top 25 teams in the world on the women’s side. Currently, we have three but its clear there is a wave of talent and skill coming up to the pro level. That beach volleyball is now a legitimate NCAA sport for women means we now have thousands of teenage girls playing beach volleyball full time. Programs are going to start hiring qualified experienced coaches and we will witness a golden era for women’s beach volleyball in the US.

Weve been lucky to have such strong teams carry the torch for all these years but I foresee serious depth and many more medals coming our way.

On the men’s side, TJ DeFalco qualified for his first main draw at the ripe ol age of 19. If you have paid close attention to our indoor and high performance national teams, this shouldnt come as a surprise. TJ was the youngest American male ever named to the Preliminary World League Roster for the U.S. indoor team. Still, on a tour bursting at the seams with fathers who in any other sport would be past their prime, a teenaged appearance is a bit of a shock.

DeFalco and partner Matt Hilling took their licks and went winless running into Gibb/Patterson and then the Bomgren brothers.

As his competitor, I found it impressively, maddeningly frustrating that Ryan Doherty was able to perform as well as he did on 1.5 legs. He was slow and he labored through most plays but his success (just three weeks after a serious ankle sprain) was a testament to the work he has put in with his ball control. I thought wed be able to earn more points of him and Tramblie by forcing some scramble plays but they both proved why theyve been getting top finishes for years.

Doherty eventually had to bow out because of the ankle but not before earning a fifth.

Im going to start calling Ty Loomis the yo-yo man. Every time, I think he wont be a factor, he bounces back with a monster finish.

Loomis and Lorenz, a new and one time partnership, got some big wins and put up serious battles in their losses. Marty’s game is almost reminiscent of Sean Scott. He is undersized as a blocker but has major bunnies. He can bring heat from any position and his ambidextrous attack combined with great foot speed makes him dangerous.

Im looking forward to competing alongside him in FIVB Klagenfurt next month. Well have to grind our way through country quota and the qualifiers if we want to compete on the big stage but it might be the last time that event takes place and were willing to gamble on ourselves.

Things should be back to normal in AVP Manhattan Beach in two weeks. Im expecting to see all teams with their intended partners and international teams will be out in full force. AVP MBO will feature a 32-team draw which makes for a longer and potentially more dangerous tournament.

The best volleyball fans in the world will flock to the beach and it will, without a doubt, be the best tournament of the year.

See you on the sand!

Mark Burik, who also owns VolleyCamp Hermosa, can be contacted at, which organizes beach volleyball camps, clinics and lessons for all ages and levels in Hermosa Beach.


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