It’s been seven weeks since the last AVP event, the Manhattan Beach Open. That’s about a year in volleyball-partner-swapping time. And true to form, more partner swaps are occurring post-Olympics and you can see it in its wholesale form at AVP Chicago that begins Thursday in the Windy City.
Starts with Kerri Walsh Jennings, and her husband, deciding to boycott the event because of rules changes. So April Ross, her Olympics teammate, is playing with Kelly Reeves.
For that matter, among the women, only six of the top-20 main-draw teams have played together all year. Meanwhile, on the men’s side, it’s business as usual. Just two teams in the top 20 are new.
Reeves, the former UCLA standout in her first AVP season, wins the partner upgrade sweepstakes by getting to play with Ross in a matchup of cross-town Los Angeles rivalries, since Ross was a star at USC. Reeves had given up looking for a partner after a split with Ali Daley McColloch when she got the text from Ross on Monday morning asking her to play.
Reeves, who has looked up to Ross as a role model for years, was over the moon.
“I am so excited to play with April. She is such a great person and player,” Reeves said. “Chicago is an awesome venue and I’m totally looking forward to competing with her.”
Accordingly, Reeves’ former partner, McColloch, is partnered with Geena Urango. Her normal partner, Angela Bensend, is skipping Chicago.
Emily Day is playing with Irene Hester-Pollock. This is their second outing after a 17th at the World Series of Beach Volleyball last weekend in Long Beach. Hester-Pollock’s former partner, Caitlin LeDoux, picked up Xi Zhang, 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medalist.
Jennifer Fopma and Emily Stockman are joining up in Chicago. Fopma’s former partner, Brittany Hochevar, chose talented newcomer and former indoor national-team star Kristin Hildebrand. Stockman’s former partner, Amanda Dowdy, will continue with Whitney Pavlik after their seventh-place finish at AVP Manhattan Beach.
Dana Fiume picked up Branagan Fuller, while Fiume’s former partner, Amanda Wiggins, will join Leah DeKok. Fuller’s former partner, Kerri Schuh, is reuniting with Chicago’s own Julie Kolinske, while Schuh’s former partner, Jessica Stubinski, is going back to Sarah Day.
Communication skills obviously will be vital at AVP Chicago. The new teams will need to communicate early and often to be successful. One team for which that shouldn’t be a problem is Olympians Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat.
Among the men, Derek Olson and Paul Araiza are bringing “small ball” to Chicago, after placing third at Seaside. Araiza’s former partner Alejandro Parra is joining forces with Gregg Weaver.
Both USA Olympics men’s pairs are competing, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena and Jake Gib and Casey Patterson. Also playing are brothers Taylor and Trevor Crabb and Tri Bourne and John Hyden.
Qualification begins on Thursday, double-elimination play begins Friday and concludes with the semifinals and finals on Sunday, with live coverage on NBC at noon Central.
For more: https://avp.com/event/avp-championships-in-chicago/