The initial diagnosis was a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Luckily, her doctor was wrong about that one.

As it turned out, Toni Rodiguez had only torn her miniscus, had surgery, and hopes to be back on the pro beach circuit in August.

Any time an athlete gets hurt it’s bad, but in the case of Rodriguez, she and partner Savvy Simo were doing so well and Rodriguez’s career was on the upswing. 

“I definitely felt like one of the better up-and-coming blockers on tour,” Rodriguez said.

But, as we wrote on May 28 from AVP New Orleans:

In a much anticipated Saturday-night winners-bracket match, the LSU kids, Kloth and Nuss (who grew up just a few miles away), were playing Toni Rodriguez, their former LSU teammate, and UCLA product Savvy Simo. TKN, as Kloth and Nuss are called, were up 14-8 in the first set when Rodriguez hurt her right knee.

Rodriguez, sadly, knows what it feels like. She blew out one knee while at St. Amant High School, about 40 miles away, the other while at LSU. She sobbed in the players area while being looked at by AVP trainers and attended to by her parents and coach, never even able to test her leg. She and Savvy ultimately had to forfeit, also withdrawing from their Sunday contenders-bracket match against Day and Harward.

The 6-foot-1 Rodriguez played four seasons indoors and also three seasons of beach at LSU. Through a redshirt, injury waiver, and then the NCAA’ COVID waiver she was in school for seven years. She blew out her left knee will still in high school, the aforementioned right knee as a freshman at LSU, and along the way had shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.

“I’ve probably handled this one the best,” she said.

We caught up with Rodriguez this week and she is maintaining a positive attitude. She had surgery June 10, during which her doctor, Carey Winder, saw that she had no ACL tear, repaired her miniscus, and cleaned up some other stuff and helped stabilize her knee, Rodriguez said.

“I’m probably going to be rehabbing for two or three months,” Rodriguez said. 

She would love to be back for AVP Chicago the last weekend August and recognized there are plenty of tournaments after that this year.

“I’d like to believe I can be strong enough and ready to go in two months, but I’m definitely giving myself some time. I’m not looking at short term. I want my career to be long term. I want to take care of my body and give it time to fully heal and get the strength back I had before.”

Toni Rodriguez celebrates a point in the bronze-medal match of the Futures Coolangatta/Volleyball World photo

This season Rodriguez, 25, has had a breakthrough. She and Zana Muno won bronze in the Volleyball World Pro Beach Futures in Coolangatta, Australia (TKN won gold), and at AVP Austin, Rodriguez and Simo made it through three rounds of the contenders bracket. 

Simo played this past weekend with Megan Kraft and they won a Volleyball World Futures title in Turkey.

“I’m super stoked for her that they won,” Rodriguez said. “I know it’s been hard on her mentally. She’s never gone through a big injury and she’s never had to deal with a teammate who’s gotten injured like this. I’ve been worried about her, but she’s going to keep grinding and find people to play with. Hopefully when I get back hopefully we can play together and get in some of the (Volleyball World) Challengers in October, which is ultimately we were looking forward to.”

Toni Rodriguez
Toni Rodriguez passes at the Coolangatta, Australia, Futures event/Volleyball World photo

FIVB Worlds to Mexico in 2023

Just as it finished the 10-day tournament in Rome, the FIVB announced that next year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships will be played in Mexico in multiple cities.

Mexico became a destination this year for Volleyball World, which conducts the tournaments. It had March events in Tlaxcala and Rosarito, which was an Elite 16. 

Speaking of the event in Rome, Volleyball World reported that it reached 16 million viewers through its and other viewing outlets as it showed more than 37 million minutes of action. 

The first matches on the new Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour took place at the Plaza de la Constitucion in Tlaxcala, Mexico/Vollyball World photo

“These positive figures further prove fans’ thirst for beach volleyball. We are delighted that the digital engagement levels in our flagship beach volleyball event is showing significant and exciting signs of growth,” Volleyball World CEO Finn Taylor said.

“To see the interest in beach volleyball continuing to reach these audiences via new mediums gives us huge encouragement as we strive towards bringing top-class entertainment to more and more fans around the world.”

Volleyball World also said it got 25 million impressions from nine million unique viewers  on its social media outlets for the event.

Futures in Bialystok, Poland

There are no USA men in the qualifier, but on the women’s side the field started with three American pairs, Molly Turner and Jessica Gaffney, Brook Bauer and Katie Horton, and Melissa Fuchs Powell and Tambre Nobles.

Turner and Gaffney and Bauer and Horton won both their qualifier matches Thursday and are into the main draw. 

Megan Kraft, still a player for NCAA champion USC, and veteran Emily Stockman were already into the main draw. Kraft is coming off a victory last week with Savvy Simo when they beat beat Bauer and Horton, two former Florida State Seminoles, for gold at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures in Balikesir, Turkey. Stockman played in the World Championships with Emily Day.

Gaffney-Turner and Stockman-Kraft are in the same pool that starts Friday.

The only USA men’s pair in the Baiystok main draw is Adam Roberts and Cody Caldwell.

Heidrich update?

The Swiss Olympic bronze-medalists, Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich, were leading their World Championships bronze-medal match last weekend 21-16, 10-7. But Heidrich, while serving, collapsed and screamed in pain and they had to forfeit to Germans Svenja Muller and Cinja Tillman. 

Joana Heidrich before she got hurt in the bronze-medal match/Volleyball World photo

Heidrich, who by some reports dislocated her shoulder, posted this according to NBC Sports: “After long clarifications in the hospital, the shoulder is back in. I will report to you when I have recovered.”

Verge-Depre said on Instagram, “We were feeling good and strong and within a blink of an eye all we worked super hard for was over… I can just thank all of you for the messages, hugs, words and empathy. It means a lot to feel the support from all around the world during that difficult moment.

Life sometimes has other plans for us. We’ll also walk down this road together and come back even stronger!”

The Swiss pair are into the main draw of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Gstaad (Switzerland) Elite 16. Can Heidrich be ready when the tournament begins July 6?

Gstaad Elite 16 

Speaking of Gstaad, according to the Volleyball World entry list, the only USA men’s pair are veteran Phil Dalhausser and youngster Andy Benesh. They won AVP Austin in May. 

On the women’s side, there are five teams, three in the main draw, 11th-seeded Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss, 22nd-seeded Corrine Quiggle and Sarah Schermerhorn, and 23rd-seeded Stockman and Kraft. Lauren Fendrick and Zana Muno and Race and Lindahl are also in the tournament.

Kloth and Nuss play Quiggle and Schermerhorn in their first Pool F match. 

AVP Tour Series Denver Open

The next stop on the AVP is July 2-3 at The Island in Aurora, Colorado.

The top-seeed men’s team is Paul Lotman and Miles Partain with Evan Cory and Billy Kolinske No. 2. 

Larissa and Lili Maestrini, who won the last AVP stop in Muskegon, are the top women’s seed. Gaffney and Turner, who may lead the tour in collecting 2022 airline miles, are seeded second.

In this tournament, 14 teams are into the main draw, while on Friday, July 1, there is an on-site qualifier that will generate eight teams on both sides.

Nick Lucena hired at Florida State

He probably already has the ear of the boss, but now 2016 and 2020 Olympian Nick Lucena is going to get paid to coach beach volleyball at Florida State.

Lucena, who served as a volunteer assistant this past season for head coach Brooke Niles, who happens to be his wife, is now a paid assistant coach. 

Florida State finished this past spring 33-11 and No. 2 in the final AVCA ranking. 

Mewhirter finally gets to play with MacNeil

In the past year alone, contributor Travis Mewhirter and Jake MacNeil have competed in tournaments against one another in Bulgaria, Italy, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Australia. They’ve trained both together and against one another. As it goes in beach volleyball, they’ve become good friends, a Canadian-American duo that, when on the road, becomes near inseparable. 

And now, this weekend, they are inseparable, competing together for the first time on the Yuh Beachmasters Tour in Kloten, Switzerland. 

Mewhirter and MacNeil received a wild card into the main draw and begin competing Friday.

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