Normally, you might think that Friday at AVP New York could be pretty routine. After all, how exciting can top four seeds versus qualifiers be?

Given that the tournament is the first of the AVP’s Gold series, with additional prize money and points that were announced earlier in the week, Friday turned out to be pretty exciting.

Such was the case when four Olympians with four Olympic medals took center court in first-round morning matches. Top-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena met bottom-seeded Brazilian Ricardo Santos and Canadian Chaim Schalk in the first round. In this one, Santos’ gold, silver, and bronze medals trumped Dalhausser’s gold medal 19-21, 23-21, 9-15. More on this match later.

As if a No. 16 over No. 1 seed upset wasn’t enough, there were more upsets. No. 11 Ed Ratledge and Eric Zaun defeated both No. 6 Billy Allen and Stafford Slick (22-20, 18-21, 15-12) and No. 3 Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson (21-16, 21-23, 15-12).

On the women’s side, precocious Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes upended No. 4 Betsi Flint and Kelly Larsen (21-15, 21-19) and No. 10 Karolina Marciniak and Kendra VanZwieten got the best of No. 7 Jennifer Fopma and Kelly Reeves (20-22, 23-21, 15-10), and No. 14 Kimberly Smith and Xi Zhang defeated No. 11 Sheila Shaw and Brittany Tiegs (16-21, 21-18, 15-8).

Back to Brazil and Canada versus Dalhausser and Lucena: At age 42, Santos’ days of dominating the world tour with Emmanuel Rego are over. He moved to Orlando, Fla., in January with the intention of playing on the AVP tour. He was not able to compete in Huntington and Austin since he had not yet received his green card. He was able to keep his hand in on the EVP tour in Bradenton, Fla., winning with Rodrigo Saunders.

In New York he partnered with Canadian Chaim Schalk, a top defender on the FIVB tour with two bronze medals last year (Porec, Klagenfurt with Ben Saxton). The pair cruised through the qualifier, with perhaps the exception of a three-set win in the second round over Piotr Marciniak and Roberto Rodriguez-Bertran.

Certainly Dalhausser and Lucena knew what they were getting into, not the stereotypical we’re-playing-the-35th-seeded-qualifier-and-have-no-idea-who-these-guys-are. They knew they were in for a semifinal-like battle.

And a battle it was. The first set went almost point for point, with no team gaining a two point advantage until Dalhausser scored a block for 21-19, set one over.

In set two the defense scored a few more points. Brazil surged ahead at 14-11 on a Santos block of Lucena, followed by a Schalk dig and transition of a Lucena high line. Schalk and Santos reached set point first, and apparently won the set on an errant Lucena spike, but Santos netted to keep the match going, and an apparent switch of momentum for the Americans. Dalhausser confirmed that momentum with a block of Schalk’s line spike to bring them to 20-20 during the freeze.  It wasn’t the American’s day, as Dalhausser spiked a ball long to give Brazil the second set 23-21.

The deciding set was almost all Brazil, as Ricardo went into gold-medal-like form and blocked four consecutive balls for an 11-6 Brazil lead, followed by a Schalk cut-shot dig and transition for 12-6, a nearly unsurmountable lead in rally scoring. Santos and Schalk would close out the match 15-9 to send the No. 1 seed to the losers bracket in the first round for the first time in recent memory.

Three-time Olympic medalist Ricardo Santos (left) jousts with Marty Lorenz in Friday play/Danny Chin, Omega Photo Studios

“We are excited to take out the No. 1 seed,” Schalk said. “Each match Ricardo and I are learning more about each other and the focus is to improve every time we take the court.

“We had a good battle in our second match today. Marty (Lorenz) and Ty (Loomis) pushed us to the limit (21-17, 19-21, 15-9) but we were able to capitalize in the end. We will keep building as a team tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Ratledge and Zaun, who came out of the qualifier at Huntington to finish ninth and took fifth in Austin, continue to outperform their seed. Zaun, a 23-year-old NVL convert, and Ratledge, a 40-year-old veteran, continue to frustrate teams.

They bested two of the USA’s top teams, Slick and Allen as well as Brunner and Patterson, both in three sets. Granted, the blustery day and swirling winds were likely an equalizing factor, but you can bet that their next opponents are not taking them lightly.

Their second match against Brunner and Patterson could easily have gone either way. After a side-out battle to the technical at 11-10, Brunner blocked just enough of a Zaun pokey to steer it to the Zaun sideline for 12-10, followed by an wide swing by Ratledge for a 13-10 edge.

Zaun followed up later with a dig of a Patterson cut shot and transition to cut the lead to 13-14. A later Ratledge ace brought them back to 15-15.

Down 21-20, Patterson turned the momentum around with a pair of overhand digs and putaways to give his team the 21-20 lead. He would subsequently dig a Zaun spike attempt and put the set away at 23-21.

The third set was a see-saw affair, as Zaun jumped to an early 2-0 lead on a sideout and service ace.

Patterson’s digging was on, he transitioned one to bring the score back to 2-2, and successfully jousted with Ratledge for 4-2.

Zaun and Ratledge would make a three point run on a Ratledge block, and a pair of uncharacteristic hitting errors by Brunner to make it 7-5.

The swirling winds influenced a lot of the late play, as a Zaun set from off the net was blown into Brunner’s hands for an easy block at 8-8, and Patterson doubled a difficult low pass at the net for a 10-8 Ratledge/Zaun lead that he would have executed easily in better conditions.

Ratledge used the good side windy serving conditions to his advantage, with a three point run to 14-9, switching to the bad side, when the wind inexplicably abated somewhat.

After the matchpoint-score freeze, Brunner and Patterson made a run of their own, with a successful Patterson joust, a Ratledge hitting error, and a Patterson dig and tool to bring the  score to 14-13, forcing a time-out.

The comeback was not to be, as the match ended on a called set by Patterson from off the net to give Zaun and Ratledge the upset.

“I’m so grateful to my team for our success today,” Ratledge said. “Eric is sticking by me and doing his job really well, my wife Jessica has been so supportive and helpful, and @coastcryo has helped me train both harder and smarter than ever before.”

Incidentally, Zaun and Ratledge’s next opponents are Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, and you can bet dollars to donuts that coach Rich Lambourne was crafting a game plan in his hotel room Friday evening.

Even more surprising, the upsets create a surprising matchup: No. 1 Dalhausser and Lucena are playing No. 3 Brunner and Patterson Saturday at 11:20 Eastern on court 2, and the loser goes home with a disappointing ninth place. Get to that match early for a good seat.

Emily Stockman dives for a net serve/Photo courtesy Michael Clubine,

In the women’s draw, things were a bit more predictable. No. 13 Hughes and Claes of USC fame came out of the gate in their first AVP event of the year with a 21-15, 21-19 upset of No. 4 Betsi Flint and Kelley Larsen before succumbing to No. 5 Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat 22-20, 21-14. If you’re up on your coverage, you know that Ross and Sweat are on the upswing.

Hughes talked about the pair’s transition from college to the domestic tour.

“We are both really excited coming out and being able to compete in our first AVP of the season. In the first match we were very aggressive and played in a great rhythm. Overall it was a good day and we are ready to fight in the contender’s bracket tomorrow.”

In another upset, No. 10 Karolina Marciniak and Kendra VanZwieten sent No. 7 Jennifer Fopma and Kelly Reeves to the contenders bracket in a hard-fought 20-22, 23-21, 15-10 battle.

The final upset of the day? If you can call losing to a two-time Olympian and bronze medalist an upset, No. 11 Sheila Shaw and Brittany Tiegs dropped a three-setter to No. 14 Kimberly Smith and former Chinese star Xi Zhang 21-16, 18-21, 15-8.

Saturday’s men’s matches
Winners bracket round 3
Match 13: Ricardo Santos/Chaim Schalk (16, Q35) vs. Trevor Crabb/Sean Rosenthal (4)
Match 14: Ed Ratledge/Eric Zaun (11) vs. Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (2)
Contenders bracket round 2
Match 19: Avery Drost/Ty Tramblie (10) vs. Ryan Doherty/John Hyden (5)
Match 20: Billy Allen/Stafford Slick (6) vs. Ty Loomis/Marty Lorenz (8)
Match 21: Maddison McKibbin/Reid Priddy (13, Q1) vs. Jeremy Casebeer/John Mayer (7)
Match 22: Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (1) vs. Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson (3)
Saturday’s women’s matches
Winners bracket round 3
Match 13: Emily Day/Brittany Hochevar (1) vs. Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat (5)
Match 14: Kim DiCello/Emily Stockman (3) vs. Lauren Fendrick/April Ross (2)
Contenders bracket round 2
Match 19: Jennifer Fopma/Kelly Reeves (7) vs. Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (13)
Match 20: Kimberly Smith/Xi Zhang (14, Q5) vs. Caitlin Ledoux/Heather McGuire (8)
Match 21: Betsi Flint/Kelley Larsen (4) vs. Karolina Marciniak/Kendra VanZwieten (10)
Match 22: Amanda Dowdy/Irene Hester Pollock (9) vs. Angela Bensend/Geena Urango (6)
Friday’s men’s results
Winners bracket
Round 1
Match 1: Ricardo Santos/Chaim Schalk (16, Q35) def. Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (1) 19-21, 23-21, 15-9 (1:01)
Match 2: Ty Loomis/Marty Lorenz (8) def. Brian Bomgren/Tim Bomgren (9) 21-17, 22-20 (0:48)
Match 3: Ryan Doherty/John Hyden (5) def. Kevin McColloch/Derek Olson (12) 21-15, 22-20 (0:43)
Match 4: Trevor Crabb/Sean Rosenthal (4) def. Maddison McKibbin/Reid Priddy (13, Q1) 21-18, 25-23 (0:57)
Match 5: Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson (3) def. Michael Brunsting/Chase Frishman (14, Q2) 21-17, 21-16 (0:36)
Match 6: Ed Ratledge/Eric Zaun (11) def. Billy Allen/Stafford Slick (6) 22-20, 18-21, 15-12 (1:02)
Match 7: Jeremy Casebeer/John Mayer (7) def. Avery Drost/Ty Tramblie (10) 21-16, 21-19 (0:47)
Match 8: Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (2) def. Shane Donohue/Eric Lucas (15, Q29) 21-13, 21-15 (0:33)
Round 2
Match 9: Ricardo Santos/Chaim Schalk (16, Q35) def. Ty Loomis/Marty Lorenz (8) 21-17, 19-21, 15-9 (1:00)
Match 10: Trevor Crabb/Sean Rosenthal (4) def. Ryan Doherty/John Hyden (5) 26-24, 21-15 (0:46)
Match 11: Ed Ratledge/Eric Zaun (11) def. Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson (3) 21-16, 21-23, 15-12 (1:04)
Match 12: Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (2) def. Jeremy Casebeer/John Mayer (7) 21-16, 21-11 (0:36)
Round 3
Match 13: Ricardo Santos/Chaim Schalk (16, Q35) vs. Trevor Crabb/Sean Rosenthal (4)
Match 14: Ed Ratledge/Eric Zaun (11) vs. Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (2)
Contender’s Bracket

Round 1
Match 15: Avery Drost/Ty Tramblie (10) def. Shane Donohue/Eric Lucas (15, Q29) 21-16, 21-15 (0:42)
Match 16: Billy Allen/Stafford Slick (6) def. Michael Brunsting/Chase Frishman (14, Q2) 21-17, 21-18 (0:43)
Match 17: Maddison McKibbin/Reid Priddy (13, Q1) def. Kevin McColloch/Derek Olson (12) 21-18, 21-17 (0:43)
Match 18: Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (1) def. Brian Bomgren/Tim Bomgren (9) 21-17, 21-15 (0:35)
Friday’s women’s results
Winners bracket
Round 1
Match 1: Emily Day/Brittany Hochevar (1) def. Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima/Kerri Schuh (16, Q7) 21-18, 21-17 (0:45)
Match 2: Caitlin Ledoux/Heather McGuire (8) def. Amanda Dowdy/Irene Hester Pollock (9) 21-19, 19-21, 15-13 (1:01)
Match 3: Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat (5) def. Lane Carico/Sarah Pavan (12, Q1) 21-14, 21-17 (0:37)
Match 4: Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (13) def. Betsi Flint/Kelley Larsen (4) 21-15, 21-19 (0:32)
Match 5: Kim DiCello/Emily Stockman (3) def. Kimberly Smith/Xi Zhang (14, Q5) 21-17, 21-17 (0:41)
Match 6: Angela Bensend/Geena Urango (6) def. Sheila Shaw/Brittany Tiegs (11) 21-17, 21-13 (0:38)
Match 7: Karolina Marciniak/Kendra VanZwieten (10) def. Jennifer Fopma/Kelly Reeves (7) 20-22, 23-21, 15-10 (1:03)
Match 8: Lauren Fendrick/April Ross (2) def. Nicolette Martin/Allie Wheeler (15, Q6) 21-15, 21-18 (0:44)
Round 2
Match 9: Emily Day/Brittany Hochevar (1) def. Caitlin Ledoux/Heather McGuire (8) 16-21, 21-16, 15-13 (0:45)
Match 10: Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat (5) def. Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (13) 22-20, 21-14 (0:36)
Match 11: Kim DiCello/Emily Stockman (3) def. Angela Bensend/Geena Urango (6) 21-16, 17-21, 15-12 (1:03)
Match 12: Lauren Fendrick/April Ross (2) def. Karolina Marciniak/Kendra VanZwieten (10) 21-17, 21-17 (0:42)
Round 3
Match 13: Emily Day/Brittany Hochevar (1) vs. Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat (5)
Match 14: Kim DiCello/Emily Stockman (3) vs. Lauren Fendrick/April Ross (2)
Contenders bracket
Round 1
Match 15: Jennifer Fopma/Kelly Reeves (7) def. Nicolette Martin/Allie Wheeler (15, Q6) 21-13, 21-18 (0:36)
Match 16: Kimberly Smith/Xi Zhang (14, Q5) def. Sheila Shaw/Brittany Tiegs (11) 16-21, 21-18, 15-8 (0:53)
Match 17: Betsi Flint/Kelley Larsen (4) def. Lane Carico/Sarah Pavan (12, Q1) 21-17, 21-14 (0:37)
Match 18: Amanda Dowdy/Irene Hester Pollock (9) def. Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima/Kerri Schuh (16, Q7) 21-17, 21-19 (0:47)


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