NASHVILLE, Tennessee – JD Hamilton sat under a grey Tennessee sky spitting a light rain, and pointed to the courts before him.
“That,” he said, “is the future.”
Which court he was referring to, nobody could really tell for sure, for both could have been the future he referenced. On the immediate court in front of him was the finals of the men’s open of Hyden Beach’s AVP Next, Avery Drost and Miles Partain vs. Caleb Kwekel and Logan Webber. Three of those names, you’ve likely heard of.
Drost and Miles Partain are AVP main-draw regulars, Drost a longtime veteran of 10 on tour, Partain the 2019 Rookie of the Year, an 18-year-old with a potential that has no limits. Webber, too, you’ve likely heard of, a 24-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who made four main draws in 2019. Kwekel, however, is the new kid on the block, an 18-year-old like Partain who, like Partain, has a ceiling that will take quite a long time to reach.
But maybe that wasn’t the future to which Hamilton was referring — two 18-year-old kids playing in a final without thousands on the line? What’s that to LSU’s indomitable duo of Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss, competing against Emily Stockman and Kelley Larsen?
So it was a tribute to youth that Partain, Nuss, and Kloth won titles Sunday at Hyden Beach.
Before to this weekend, the LSU women had played together in two tournaments, the Coconut Classic at Coconut Beach in Louisiana, and an AVP Next Gold in Atlantic City.
Not once had they lost a set.
It wouldn’t be until the quarterfinals of the Hyden Beach tournament that a team managed to steal a set off the two seniors. Still, it didn’t matter. Delaney Mewhirter and Katie Spieler may have won the second set of the quarters, but it would be Nuss and Kloth who took the third.
They wouldn’t lose another set, sweeping the semifinals before controlling every point of the way in a remarkably impressive final, beating the fifteenth-ranked team on the planet 21-13, 21-15.
It’s a testament to a number of trends in this sport for the U.S., the first being that LSU is every bit as good as advertised — ranked No. 1 at the end of the COVID-shortened season — and is only going to get better from here, a frightful inevitability across the college landscape. The other trend is nothing new on the women’s side, but for the men, it’s bright news, indeed: There’s young talent coming up the pipeline, in abundance for the women, at least a handful for the men.
Miles Partain is a can’t miss prospect. His fifth in Chicago with Paul Lotman a year ago was validated with a strong showing in the Champion’s Cup Series with Ty Loomis.
Kwekel, too, is well on his way there, a surefire breakout talent to come. He’s only played in one qualifier, Hermosa Beach last year. He’s won a few smaller tournaments this year, in Clearwater and Iowa, and is routinely nudging up against long established talents.
He didn’t win this final, no. That would go to the 18-year-old on the other side of the net, to Partain, who is just beginning his career at UCLA. Still, three of the four champions, in a tournament filled with professionals, cannot accept the prize money.
Hamilton was correct in his assessment: Anybody in Nashville, or streaming online, was watching the future, indeed.
Beach Bytes — Four decent-sized tournaments were conducted this past weekend. Aside from Hyden Beach’s AVP Next, Adam Roberts hosted an open in Myrtle Beach, CHAOS hosted an open at Grand Sands in Cincinnati, while 210 Beach in San Antonio also held an open tournament.
Roberts and Trevor Crabb won in Myrtle, beating the no-blocking team of Taylor Crabb and Nick Lucena in the semifinals and Kevin Knight and TJ Jurko in the finals. USC’s top pair of Hailey Harward and Julia Scoles took the women’s side, making it the second big title for the two this summer after winning Waupaca earlier in the year.
In San Antonio, Steve Roschitz and Pete Connole beat Jon Mesko and John Schwengel for the win. Pepperdine sophomore Sutton McTavish and Taylor Nyquist claimed the women’s title, beating LMU grad transfer Iya Lindahl and Kim Hildreth.
Bruno Amorim and Ryan Lehman came back to win in Ohio after losing their first match of the tournament. Carly Skjodt continued her winning streak; after winning both doubles and triples at Grass Nationals, she partnered with Courtney Baleiko to win again in Ohio.