LONG BEACH, Calif. – There was a lot of buzz about the qualifiers in the main draw at NVL Long Beach, but in the end it was the veterans that led their teams to championships on WSOBV stadium court.
On the women’s side, Kim Hildreth and Raquel Ferreira won six consecutive matches after losing their first-round match on Friday and won the title Saturday by defeating Kathryn Hogan and Dalida Vernier 21-9, 19-21, 15-9.
For the men, Dave Palm notched his fifth win, while NVL newbie Miles Evans earned his first. The pair defeated qualifiers Andrew Dentler and Dylan Maarek 21-17, 21-13.
Hildreth and Ferreira had a busy Saturday, with a quarterfinal win over Kristin Heldt and Hildreth’s former partner Maryna Samoday (21-16, 21-12), and a semifinal win over Kaley Melville and Sarah Schermerhorn (21-15, 21-14). The win is Ferreira’s ninth and Hildreth’s second.
Ferreira and Hildreth created an unconventional team that combines two top defenders, both right-siders. They have been training daily at the BeVolley Academy in St. Peterburg, Fla.
“Today feels amazing,” Hildreth said. “It’s so rewarding after all the hard work we’ve done, putting all the jigsaw pieces together. It feels great.”
Did they second-guess their choices after their first-round Friday 21-17, 11-21, 15-13 loss to Madison and McKenna Witt?
“Not at all,”Ferreira said. “Because we won this one, we’re not expecting that any of the others will be easy. As two defenders, we need to always be playing our best and it’s not always easy. It’s about building our team and believing in it and one match or one tournament doesn’t mean anything.
“I really trust her, and that’s why we chose to become a team, and we are both dedicated hard workers. She has a lot of potential that she is already developing , and it is awesome to be on the court with her.”
Hildreth and Ferreira learned much about their team in triumphing through early adversity.
“I’ve learned that I have the best partner that I could ever have. She’s gotten me out of every situation, she’s so nasty to play with, it’s so nice to be able to trust my partner 100,” Hildreth said.
“We have a very close relationship and it’s very comfortable. There’s a lot of trust between us and besides our skills, that’s our biggest strength. It’s nice that we have that combination behind us.”
Now they can prepare for the NVL’s second stop, in Hermosa Beach August 10-12.
“We definitely need to work on our physical conditioning a little bit more,” Ferreira said. “We’re small, and we need to be jumping and running a lot.”
In Saturday’s other results, Hogan and Vernier also came out of the contenders bracket with a quarterfinal win over LSU indoors and beach product Katie Lindelow and partner Taylor Nyquist 21-14, 21-17, followed by a semifinal 15-21, 21-18, 17-15 win over the Witt sisters.
New men’s champion Evans had previous best finishes of fifth in both Corona Wide Open and AVP competition.
“I am so fired up right now, I am so happy,” Evans said. “Today we played like a team. I met this guy (Palm) Wednesday, we had to figure out a couple of things sometimes, but overall we came through and came out on top. I’m super proud of him, and stoked to be able to play with this guy.”
Palm said that he got a recommendation about Evans from Bill Kolinske.
“I looked at some of his Instagram videos bouncing balls,” Palm said, “and I thought, ‘Sure, why not?’ ”
Palm’s decision paid off big for Evans, who hails from nearby Torrance.
“It means to much to be able to play in front of my hometow,” Evans said. “Not only my hometown, but the people I’ve been around for the last four years, and this tournament has such a hometown kind of feel.”
The win is Palm’s fifth, so he was a bit more restrained in post-match interviews than Evans.
“It’s not about how many titles you win, for me, it’s about playing good volleyball and getting better every single day, just 2 percent better, move forward in my own personal game, win or lose,” Palm said.
“I mean, I like to win, but as long as I’m getting better, that’s all that matters.”
In other results Saturday, Dentler and Maarek defeated Martin Caban and Petr Doubravsky 21-12, 21-17 to reach the semifinals, where they beat Brandon Joyner and Ryan Vandenburg 21-17, 20-22, 15-10 to reach the final.