The NVL gets back in action this Friday through Sunday at the Coastal Edge ECSC in Virginia Beach, Va., and the fifth stop of the tour is especially important, since it is the last qualifying event for the $100,000 season-ending Player’s Championship. The top 12 teams after Virginia beach will automatically qualify for that tournament in Port St. Lucie, Fla., September 8-11.
On the women’s side, it’s not a surprise that top seed Raquel Ferreira/Karolina Marciniak have won three of four events this year. Their skills and athleticism are a match-up problem for most teams. They have shown that they are vulnerable, losing to both Megan Rice/Anne Osburn and Maryna Samoday/Kimberly Hildreth this year, as well as being forced into a third set in Columbus and Hermosa Beach.
“We are excited for Virginia,” Ferreira said. “Watching some great volleyball at the Olympics certainly contributes in pumping us up even more for this tournament. I think we will have a great crowd from the Virginia fans, that I love and have some history with, and I can’t wait to get sandy again. We are hoping for another championship!”
Meghan Mannari/Taylor Nyquist are seeded second, same as the last tournament in Hermosa. Mannari/Nyquist have placed third, fifth, and seventh this year. This team has scored well, with the Nyquist block and the Mannari defense, but needs to side out at a higher rate against the very best teams.
“It feels great to be the No. 2 seed,” Nyquist said. “We weren’t too happy with how we finished in Hermosa, but have been training hard since then on the aspects of the game that we can control. We’re excited to see how Virginia Beach pans out and to visit a place we’ve never been to before.
“The No. 2 seed puts a higher amount of pressure on us in a sense, so it’s really important for us to just go out and play our game. Meghan and I have great chemistry on the court so if we focus on our game plan and have fun like we always do, I think we will be very successful.”
Maryna Samoday/Kimberly Hildreth are the No. 3 seed. This season they have finished third, seventh, second, and second. They are knocking on the door and are one of only two teams (the other is Anne Osburn/Megan Rice) that have beaten Ferreira/Marciniak. They have reached consecutive finals and have gone three sets with Ferreira/Marciniak in three of their four head to head meetings.
The only thing that Samoday/Hildreth lacks is that last bit of mental toughness, they can commit errors in two’s or three’s upon occasion. When they find their consistency and reverse the pressure upon their opponents, they are typically successful.
“We are going to continue building on our experience in the finals in Hermosa,” Hildreth said. “We will have the new team of Anne (Osburn) and Priscilla (Piantadosi-Lima) to figure out, which will be a tough match, but we have high hopes of taking down our first championship this weekend.”
The No. 4 seed, Piantadosi-Lima/Osburn, are the wild-card team. Osburn’s partner, Megan Rice, has returned to school, and Piantadosi-Lima’s partner, Kristen Batt-Rohr, is injured.Thus far they have only been able to practice together once, so they may not even know how good they are at this point.
The team is talented enough to play its way into the tournament, and their playing styles and side preferences should mesh well. They could be contending late on Sunday.
On the men’s side, Dave Palm/Eric Zaun have earned the top seed by virtue of one championship, two second-places, and a fifth-place finish (Zaun did not play in the NVL’s first event). The pair have lost only three matches this year, two finals to Skylar DelSol/Piotr Marciniak, and a third-round loss to John Moran/Adam Cabbage.
Palm/Zaun are a skilled and powerful team but DelSol’s defensive skills can take them out of their game, and Moran/Cabbage can match their physicality.
No. 2 seed Skylar DelSol/Piotr Marciniak have earned two championships and two third-place finishes this year. This team is the most difficult team to side-out against on the tour. Marciniak is an imposing block, and DelSol can make astonishing digs.
The team’s one weakness is that DelSol, one of the more diminutive defenders at this level, has a smaller hitting window, and can occasionally misfire long.
Jon Mesko/Travis Schoonover, a new team for this event, are seeded third. Mesko is a savvy blocker, Schoonover has the rare gift of being both a capable defender as well as an excellent transition spiker.
“I think this will be the best tournament of the year so far,” Schoonover said. “Virginia Beach is a great beach community to play a pro tournament.”
No. 4 seed Mike DiPierro/Steven Grotowski return after an absence in Hermosa Beach. They have garnered a championship and two third-place finishes this year. The pair play with poise and control, DiPierro has exceptional hand eye coordination and can gator dig screaming spikes with relative ease, and his ambidextrous swing has remarkable snap with his off hand. Grotowski’s athleticism and ball control are among the top players on the tour.
“Steve and I are excited for these last 2 events,” DiPierro said. “Have been working on some new things at practice so hopefully they will help us get back to the finals.”
The dark horse pick for the tournament are Adam Cabbage and John Moran. Moran has been plagued with back issues, limiting the team to a second in Hermosa Beach and a seventh in Columbus. They enter Virginia Beach as the second seed in the qualifier. If they can stay healthy despite the extra matches they can contend.
Any one of these five teams could win it all in Virginia Beach. What’s more, the parity on the tour this year is such that any of the main draw teams are capable of upsetting any of the favorites on an off day.
More event information can be found on the NVL website: https://thenvl.com/portfolio/virginiabeach/
The NVL will be streaming live beginning Thursday, information is here: https://thenvl.com/tv/