The AVPNext Gold New Orleans tournament this past weekend surprised me in a big way. Sure, it had a quality field, with plenty of great stories to be told. And certainly a $20,000 purse doesn’t hurt, plus the all-important AVP qualifying points.

But the biggest surprise was the New Orleans (well, suburban Kenner) southern hospitality. Plus that the country is coming out of the pandemic and yearning to resume life.

Everybody that I talked to had a great time. They might have lost a round or two before they had anticipated, but they all appreciated the chance to compete, to test their skills and athleticism, to do what they had been training for for months.

The mood was overwhelmingly positive and it wasn’t even dampened by a two-hour rain delay Saturday, or a 20-minute lightning delay Sunday. The tournament field and fans had an indomitably positive spirit about them, and it was just a joy to share in that.

And I think that came out in the photos. The fans shared in the players’ joy, especially as locals Kristen Nuss and Evan Cory won.

A particularly funny quarterfinal story comes to mind. The crowd, fueled by a few beers, exhorted Evan Cory to skyball serve. He complied, and went for extra height at the expense of accuracy. The ball landed about 20 feet short of the net, much to the amusement of the crowd.

Not done yet, they encouraged Brad Connors, Cory’s opponent, to skyball as well. And he, too, went for max altitude rather than accuracy. His skyball traveled 30 yards backwards over the fence into an adjacent parking lot, putting the crowd (and Connors) into stitches.

Brad Connors
The crowd begs for a skyball; Brad Connors falls in laughter after hitting it backwards 30 yards into an adjacent parking lot/Ed Chan,

Everyone was ready to have fun, to enjoy a taste of normalcy, to resume the lives that we had previously shared in the singular pursuit of preventing the volleyball from hitting the sand.

I’m not sure how 2021 will go, but if last weekend’s AVPNext Gold in New Orleans was any barometer, we’ll have a blast. I certainly did, and hope to return next year.

Sunday’s photos follow — if you missed Saturday’s photos, they’re here, and our tournament synopsis can be found here.

Apologies to those that I didn’t get a chance to photograph. Hopefully we’ll share other opportunities.

Oh, and if you didn’t make the galleries, all 582 of Saturday’s photos are at, with 517 Sunday photos here.

Click on any photo to view it full size:

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