TAVARES, Florida — After a day of qualifying, Saturday’s pools are set at the USA volleyball Best of the Beach volleyball tournament.
On the men’s side, Logan Webber, Caleb Kwekel, Dave Palm, and Kyle Friend placed first in their pools to advance to Saturday’s main draw. For the women, Jessica Gaffney, Megan Kraft, Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima, and Carly Kan advanced. Results are listed below.The tournament can be followed on BracketPal and the livestream is carried on BallerTV.
The event is being conducted by the Florida Region of USA volleyball at the Hickory Beach facility. Friday’s play kicked off the King of the Beach format.
Saturday’s men’s pools:
Pool 1: Taylor Crabb, Bill Kolinske, Ricardo Santos, Kyle Friend (9 a.m. start)
Pool 2: Trevor Crabb, Miles Partain, Jacob Landel, Dave Palm (10:30 a.m. start)
Pool 3: Phil Dalhausser, Theo Brunner, Avery Drost, Caleb Kwekel (9 a.m. start)
Pool 4: Miles Evans, Chaim Schalk, Chase Frishman, Logan Webber (10:30 a.m. start)
The women’s pools:
Pool 1: Kelly Claes, Delaney Mewhirter, Zana Muno, Carly Kan (9:00 a.m. start)
Pool 2: Kelley Larsen, Kim Hildreth, Brittany Tiegs, Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima (10:30 a.m. start)
Pool 3: Emily Stockman, Sarah Schermerhorn, Kendra Vanzwieten, Megan Kraft (9:00 a.m. start)
Pool 4: Corinne Quiggle, Allie Wheeler, Karolina Marciniak, Jessica Gaffney (10:30 a.m. start)
The King of the Beach format is unusual in that each player plays with each player in their pool. The player with the best match-games-point ratio advances to the next round.
Friend trailed Peter Connole in the last match of pool 4, behind in matches, sets and points. He and Jake Landel came up with a big straight-set 22-20, 21-13 win to wrest the pool 4 title from Connole.
Friend realized the value of every play and noted that “100% every point counts.
“That was my mind-set coming in. Every point matters. Lose small, win big. The format is different in that it requires you to focus on every single point as opposed to match play, where every point doesn’t necessarily matter.”
“You have to focus the whole match, which makes it more fun. More exciting volleyball.”
Friend, a Long Beach State alum, hails from Boca Raton, Florida, and had the rare opportunity to play in front of his family. He was appreciative of USA Volleyball’s efforts to put on this late-season event in a year dominated by COVID-19 cancelations.
“Coming back to my home state and getting to play volleyball, it’s amazing,” Friend said. “It’s rejuvenating, it’s recharging. I’m super fortunate, and I’m very thankful for this event.”
The year was especially challenging for Friend, who played in all seven of the AVP 2019 events, qualifying for five main draws with a best finish of ninth in Austin.
“This year was a real dagger for me, this is my only real event of the year,” Friend said. “I missed the cut for the AVPs. I was only a reserve, so this is my first and last tournament of the year.”
For Kraft, Best of the Beach was her first King of the Beach format event. The precocious 18-year-old San Diegan played in three AVP events with Delaynie Maple in 2019, reaching their first Sunday at Hermosa Beach, placing fifth.
“I thought, this sounds like fun, so I went and signed up for it,” Kraft said.
Kraft’s thought process throughout Friday’s qualifier was a bit different than the usual tournament, where players focus on exploiting opponents’ weaknesses.
“I was focusing on being the best partner that I could be for my other partners,” she said. “Making sure I knew that set they wanted, talking strategy with them pretty much every point, trying not to get too quiet, cheering for them, and that ended up helping me being successful today.”
Kraft played in her first international competition this year, finishing fourth with Maple at the one-star FIVB Guam event. Her USC beach team is scheduled to begin practicing on December 1.
She has a tough pool ahead of her tomorrow, facing Stockman, Schermerhorn, and Vanzwieten.
“I’m really excited to play with people better than me and again just be the best partner I can be and be super-competitive,” Kraft said. “I’m really excited to play with everybody.”