Let’s start with this: Is it really an AVP qualifier if the seventh seed is in it?
And if you’re guaranteed $4,000 for making it through?
With Olympians (Ricardo Santos, Lauren Fendrick) and a 2019 tournament winner (Jace Pardon) in a qualifier field, it really becomes a special Friday to remember.
Accordingly, the fans (and media) that took the time to find the players’ Facebook and Instagram (or Twitch, if you’re Troy Field) live feeds were rewarded with some dramatic volleyball Friday at the AVP Wilson Cup, the second of three pro beach weekends in Long Beach, California.
Great moments like Amanda Dowdy making three consecutive blocks to save match point, and subsequently beat Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn-Murphy. Moments like Tim Bomgren roofing Ty Loomis onto Loomis’ head hard enough that the Optx bounced into Bomgren’s court for the point. Moments like Ed Ratledge and Skylar del Sol overcoming a 14-10 third set deficit (remember, there’s no freeze in the qualifier) to give themselves a chance (they ultimately succumbed 16-14).
The morning started out on a down note as blocker Piotr Marciniak tore his left pinky tendon blocking a wrist-away swing by Ty Loomis on the second point of the match, leaving his status uncertain for next week’s Porsche Cup.
“We started our first match. I got a block on Loomis and a few seconds later I see a lot of blood coming out of my taped pinky,” Marciniak said.
“After I unwrapped my finger I saw an open wound and something sticking out. Fast forward, I went to the hospital and it turned out to be a torn tendon. I might still need surgery, but I went with my option B and got it stitched up for now.”
In the following match, Riley McKibbin took a medical timeout with an apparent knee injury. McKibbin was able to continue, although Marciniak was forced to forfeit.
When Friday was done Lauren Fendrick and Emily Day, Corinne Quiggle and Allie Wheeler, Miles Evans and Ricardo Santos and Ty Loomis and Miles Partain reached Saturday’s main draw.
Here’s Saturday’s women’s lineup:
Alix Klineman/April Ross (1) vs. Corinne Quiggle/Allie Wheeler (8, Q6)
Kelley Kolinske/Emily Stockman (5) vs. Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil (4)
Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan (3) vs. Traci Callahan/Crissy Jones (6)
Emily Day/Lauren Fendrick (7, Q1) vs. Sara Hughes/Brandie Wilkerson (2)
And Saturday’s men’s lineup:
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (1) vs. Ty Loomis/Miles Partain (8, Q7)
Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson (5) vs. Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb (4)
Chase Budinger/Chaim Schalk (3) vs. Jeremy Casebeer/John Hyden (6)
Miles Evans/Ricardo Santos (7, Q5) vs. Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (2)
Lauren Fendrick and Emily Day — Last week the new team of Fendrick and Day sustained disappointing main-draw losses to both Sara Hughes and Brandie Wilkerson and Traci Callahan and Crissy Jones. This week they advanced into the main draw, defeating both Jace Pardon and replacement Emily Hartong (27-25, 21-17) and Amanda Dowdy Lawson and Zana Muno (21-16, 17-21, 15-11).
Fendrick and Day simply powered through the qualifier draw. Sure, this team still has plenty of upside potential (and the main draw should be concerned), but when you put a team with 13 AVP wins (Day has nine and Fendrick four) in a qualifier, even this one, the conclusion is forgone.
“It was great to get more matches with Emily. Each match we learn a little more, improve our communication and get a little stronger as a team,” Fendrick said, who is donating $5/kill to &Mother this weekend. “We shored up some deficiencies in practice and continued to highlight our strengths.
“Emily was a beast in the backcourt and her on two game was lights out. I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Rob Espero interviewed Day:
Corinne Quiggle and Allie Wheeler — Quiggle and Wheeler battled. Just battled, scratched, and clawed their way into the main draw, even without the benefit of a bye. They beat Lane Carico and Kaya Marciniak (21-18, 19-21, 16-14), Kenzie Ponnet and Sheila Shaw (21-16, 17-21, 15-8) and Terese Cannon and Kelly Reeves (21-17, 21-18).
Quiggle and Wheeler played with energy, even facing a matchpoint in the first round against Carico and Marciniak. Their formula today? Tough serving, aggressive defense, and timely blocking.
“We played three great teams today, all battles and I think Allie and I got better each match. We were connecting more and just stayed super resilient to whatever the situation was,” Quiggle said. “Even when we were down 14-13 in the third our mentality was aggressive and patient.
“I think those were the biggest things for us today. I’m really proud of how we both played and we’re super excited to get to play tomorrow.”
Ricardo Santos and Miles Evans — Speaking of battles, Santos and Evans went through the gauntlet Friday in a trio of three-setters. First round they defeated Mark Burik and Billy Kolinske (21-18, 16-21, 15-12). Second round they beat young upstarts Andy Benesh and Eric Beranek (17-21, 21-17, 18-16). Finally they beat last week’s qualifiers Billy Allen and Stafford Slick (19-21, 21-16, 17-15) to advance to the Wilson Cup main draw.
When a match gets tight, there’s no one else that you would rather have on your side than Santos, a three-time Olympic medalist. And indeed, it was Santos who put the icing on the cake, serving a high deep floater into the wind that caught Slick in the bicep that he was unable to control.
Certainly Santos isn’t the guy that put fear into the FIVB world draw in 2004, but he’s still one of the best at reading hitters, and he still hits one of the heaviest balls on the tour, even if it comes from a slightly lower point.
Evans has learned much from Santos despite the language barrier.
“Ricardo and I have been developing our team chemistry more and more every time we step on the court together.
“The first AVP tournament our communication was stagnant but we’ve developed a strong line of communication without a coach in our box during the qualifier.
“His experience has helped me stay more steady and his composure gives me a lot of confidence.
“I’m thrilled I even have the chance to play and learn from the big Brazilian legend.
Ty Loomis and Miles Partain — Ty Loomis is 41. He’s 6-foot-3, on the small side for a blocker. He’s usually a defender. But don’t tell him, because he split block with the 18-year-old, UCLA-bound Miles Partain all the way to the main draw.
He received the benefit of the forfeit when Marciniak injured his finger, but continued past last week’s qualifiers, Ed Ratledge and Skylar del Sol (21-23, 21-17, 16-14) as well as Troy Field and Tim Bomgren (21-19, 21-19).
Fittingly, Loomis finished his qualifier on an off-balance cross-court blast past Field, launching a Loomis-signature sand-throwing celebration.
The pair came up with a surprising number of blocks Friday for a sub-6-3 pairing, and simply played the game well. That being said, if you played this qualifier 10 times, you’d have to figure that the seventh-seeded qualifiers would only win it once or twice. And that’s why they play the games.
“This whole year is just a bonus, just getting out with the kid, he’s such a good player, we’re having so much fun playing with each other,” Loomis said.
“We were the second to the last seed in the first tournament, so we really had no expectations, we told ourselves we were going to have so much fun and I’m going to have lead with that.”
Loomis enjoyed mentoring the young Partain.
“I’m going to try and share as much and as fast as possible with him, and keep it super positive the whole time, and whatever happens, happens,” Loomis said. “I told him, ‘You just be yourself, be quiet, smooth, work on your setting.’
“He was like a baby Maddison McKibbin out there, we just slowed things down.”
Throughout the day, Loomis and Partain opened their playbook, doubling up, running 2’s and 4’s, even the kitchen sink, Loomis said.
“Our strategy today was that we’re going to throw out everything, we’re going to mix it up,” he said.
Of course that’s only possible if your partner has excellent ball control.
“He made some incredibly plays for an 18-year old, I just couldn’t believe some of them,” Loomis said.
“Our defensive strategy is usually me going for-it, being the (serving) aggressor on the team, so I just pulled out my hybrid jump serve, which I’m a little more consistent at, and told Miles, ‘You just serve aggressive but in every time.’ ”
“The AVP did an incredible job over the last six months dealing with all the dynamic changes of our circumstance of the times.
“Once we got to the site, everything was pretty relaxed and normal even though the fans weren’t there, which we missed dearly, it’s still an incredible event, and every single player is grateful.”