High stakes in NVL’s season-ending event in Port St. Lucie

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Skylar DelSol is paired with Piotr Marciniak and they are the top seeded men's team/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

There’s a lot at stake at the Players Championships, the final event of NVL 2016 season that begins on Friday at the NVL/Club Med beach volleyball academy in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Start with a prize of $100,000 per gender, which makes it the richest event of the season. The format is quite similar to the FIVB pool play/single-elimination, rather than the modified double-elimination.

The top three teams will be seeded into a single-elimination bracket, with the pool winners receiving first-round byes. That favors the more established teams that have played together longer, have established lines of communication and have worked out the kinks.

Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima has another partner and a lot of confidence/Ed Chan, VBshots.com
Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima has another partner and a lot of confidence/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

On the women’s side, Raquel Ferreira’s knee injury in Virginia Beach has altered the team compositions. Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima, partner-widowed by Kristen Batt-Rohr’s shoulder injury, will join Karolina Marciniak and be the No. 1 seed. Marciniak was Ferreira’s partner.

Although the pair have not played together since 2014, Piantadosi-Lima doesn’t expect any issues.

“I think it’ll be like riding a bike,” Lima said. “I think it will be like a reunion. We’ll be pretty smooth.”

This will be Piantadosi-Lima’s fourth partner in as many tournaments.

“Whoever’s available, I’m picking them up,” she said with a laugh.

Laughing aside, they got together on Wednesday in Port St. Lucie on Wednesday and complete a few reps in advance of Friday’s play.

“I’m very excited to go to PSL and play the championships with Karolina,” Piantadosi-Lima said. “I’m ready to win a championship. I’ve been knocking on the door, it hasn’t worked yet. I’m super-competitive, I feel that I’m playing great defense, I’m putting balls away, I’m confident in my setting skills. I’m in better shape than I was earlier in the season. I’m ready to have fun and be competitive.”

No. 2 seed Kim Hildreth/Maryna Samoday have been on an upward trajectory culminating in their championship in Virginia Beach two weeks ago. They have trained hard and are determined and have tasted their first championship together. 

“Really excited to play together this last tournament,” Hildreth said. “We are feeling confident in the work we put in and our team chemistry. Winning Virginia gave us that extra boost of confidence that we can take this last event down together also.”

The No. 3 seed is a new team, Anne Osburn, and Chara Harris. As they are both traditionally right-side players, Osburn will move to the left.

“I can’t wait to play with Chara,” Osburn said, “and get some playing time on the left side. We are both pretty flexible and will be able to offer different looks for teams. Chara is such a great defender and I hope to block some balls for her.”

Seeded fourth are perennial NVL powers Meghan Mannari/Taylor Nyquist. The pair have earned two thirds, a fifth, and a seventh this year.

“Meghan and I can’t wait to play together in the PSL Championships this weekend. We were unable to play last year together due to an injury so we’re eager to get out there and put all of our hard work from this season out on the court,” Nyquist said.

“We’re especially excited about this stop because although all the stops have been so great this year, it’s really exciting for us to think back on how far we’ve come since May and how we continue to grow as a team on the court. Club Med was such a fun place to be as well so we’re looking forward to seeing everyone and competing for our first win, hopefully.”

The men’s draw features a new No. 1 seed, Piotr Marciniak/Skylar DelSol. The pair have broken out of the pack with three wins this year, and have established themselves as the team to beat. The pair won last year’s season-ending championships, and won the most recent Virginia Beach event.

Marciniak/DelSol also won the prestigious men’s open division at the Motherlode, a top amateur event. DelSol also won the coed-open division with NVL star Jennifer Snyder. Marciniak/DelSol are the team to beat, although there are plenty of teams nipping at their heels.

No. 2 seed Dave Palm/Eric Zaun are one of the most consistent teams on the tour, with a first, two seconds, and a third place finish this year. The pair finished second at last year’s championships and is more than ready to upgrade their finish.

“We are really looking forward to closing out the season at the amazing Club Med Resort in Port St. Lucie,” Zaun said. “The boys are hoping to Shanghai a victory at the tour championships.”

No. 3 seed Steve Grotowski/Mike DiPierro have played well this year, winning the NVL’s opener at Port St. Lucie, a second last week in Virginia, and a pair of thirds.

“We’re super excited for this event,” Grotowski said. “We played really well here earlier in the summer and would be great to repeat. Especially in front of all our friends and family.”

No. 4 seed Martin Caban/Petr Doubravsky also played well previously at Port St. Lucie, finishing second in the opener. The pair’s powerful sideout game also earned them two fifths, a seventh, and a ninth this year. The sand, not as deep as a natural beach, favors athletes like Caban/Doubravsky that like to get up high and hit hard.

The NVL Players Championships schedule:

Thursday
11 a.m. —  Qualifier Play Begins

Friday, September 9th (8 rounds)
9 a.m. — Main Draw Play Begins

8 p.m. — Player banquet followed by player party
Saturday  (8 rounds)
10 — Main Draw Play Begins
2-6 p.m. —  Cool Down Pool Party
Sunday, September 11th
9 a.m — Women’s semifinal No. 1
10 a.m. — Women’s semifinal No. 2
11 a.m. — Men’s semifinal No. 1
Noon — Men’s semifinal No. 1

Noon-1 pm. — Free Junior Clinic
1:30 p.m. — Women’s final
3 p.m. —  Men’s final

Thursday the event will be streamed on Facebook live: https://www.facebook.com/thenvl/

Live stream Friday through Sunday at https://thenvl.com/tv/

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