The main draw began Friday at AVP San Francisco and the 17 mph winds were a recipe for upsets.
And sure enough, there were more upsets than you would normally expect on a Friday. On the women’s side, the beach experienced that rarest of surprises, a No. 8 seed over a No. 1 as Kelly Reeves and Brittany Howard upended Emily Day and Betsi Flint, who won the last AVP event in Seattle.
The men’s side had even more upsets as No. 7 Tim Bomgren and Chaim Schalk upset No. 2 Jeremy Casebeer and Reid Priddy (21-13, 17-21, 15-13), No. 6 Ed Ratledge and Roberto Rodriguez knocked off No. 3 Trevor Crabb and John Mayer (21-19, 14-21, 15-13), and No. 5 Chase Budinger and Sean Rosenthal beat No. 4 Casey Patterson and Stafford Slick (21-23, 21-16, 15-11).
“We just stuck to our game plan,” Reeves said in the post-match Amazon television interview. “We looked at this as a great opportunity to play, let’s focus on our side, Em Day and Betsi Flint, they’re on a hot streak right now, so it’s going to be a tough game, but we put our hard helmets on and went out there and started swinging.”
Reeves, who won an indoor championship at UCLA, and Howard, who played indoors at Stanford and then a year at Pepperdine, are a new pair this season.
Reeves, who normally relies on a mix of spikes and shots, relied nearly exclusively on her hitting throughout the match.
“My passing just felt in the groove,” Reeves said, and Brittany was putting up great sets, so I went after it and relied on my hitting today because I knew that they were a physical team and it was working, so why go away from it.”
Reeves and Howard went with an unconventional strategy of serving the higher- and harder-hitting Day rather than Flint.
“Em Day is a great player,” Howard said. “We thought that our game plan would bring out our strengths, and we think that we accomplished that. Obviously they’re a great team, and it was really close, and they came back hard in game three, and we’re just happy and stoked that we pulled that one out.”
It puts Reeves and Howard into at least fifth place after ninth-place finishes in Austin, New York, and Seattle.
“The last three tournaments we’ve taken a ninth so we can’t complain,” Howard said. “We wanted to break through that threshold. We’ve gone back and worked on a lot and think that our partnership is really great.”
Bomgren and Schalk got to avenge a previous three-set loss to Casebeer and Priddy in Seattle that sent them home in ninth place.
“We’re feeling good,” Schalk said. “We wanted to get them after that crazy battle that we had. They’re a great team, it was a lot of back-and-forth volleyball, I think the fans loved it, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s a high intensity game, it was fun to play that one. We had good energy the whole time. It was awesome.”
Saturday’s matches start at 9 a.m. Pacific and will be streamed live on Amazon Prime. Sunday’s finals will be also be on Amazon Prime and shown on Tuesday on NBC Sports.