Big AVP happenings: 8-city league starts in 2024, plus new tour format
November 13, 2023
August 18, 2022
So, how did Miles Partain celebrate winning his first major pro beach title?
After he and Paul Lotman won AVP Atlanta, there were no fancy dinners or outings. No,Â Miles celebrated by dropping his partner Paul Lotman (at least for the week) to travel to remote Seaside, Oregon, along with 66 (!) other teams in the Open Division to play for a total purse that was less than Miles made all by himself in Atlanta.
And Miles chose someone even more familiar to him, his older brother, Marcus, also his teammate on the UCLA indoor team. Marcus has some bona fides himself, having teamed with Miles five years ago to be the youngest team ever to qualify for an AVP main draw in Hermosa Beach. Marcus was 17 at the time, Miles 15. Marcusâ€™ best finish in an AVP is a 17th, which he did three times with Miles, but the last was three years ago.Â
A little bit of perspective. Miles decides to play in a grueling 67-team draw tournament a few days after winning in Atlanta. Drops Lotman for the week and picks up his brother, who clearly is far from his best form. And all of this a few days before the biggest tournament of them all, the Grandaddy, this weekend’s Manhattan Beach Open, where a player wants to be rested and peaked.
The epitome of brotherly love or what?
At the end of this past weekend, the most compelling story was the path these Palisades High Dolphins/UCLA Bruins brothers would take.Â But in the end, the men’s title went to Chase Frishman and Avery Drost, while the women’s crown went to Carly Skojdt and Molly Turner. Click here for the complete results.
There were some obstacles along the way. Even the open courts at Seaside were not well-tended (can we get a rake out here?) littered with debris from the barbeque pits of vacation revelers (Warning: if you ever travel to Seaside you must bring sand socks).
Seaside is the tournament every player in the Pacific Northwest points toward. It was started 40 years ago (September 4, 1982 to be exact) by Debbie Hauger, a Seaside High School student, who with other lifeguards, was able to attract 57 teams and 215 players that first year. Impressive indeed. And the event has mushroomed to three days, 1,600 teams playing on 184 courts in umpteen divisions. The only tournament of its kind in the world that is larger is in Bibione, Italy, with 10,000 athletes, 2,500 teams and 275 courts.
This year the quality of play in Seaside seemed to be a notch higher than any year I can remember (I have played off and on since 1996). Part of it was the hard-packed sand, created by light rain, and the other was that Seaside was in the perfect window: between Atlanta and Manhattan Beach on the tournament calendar.
One of the outstanding features of playing in Seaside is terrific access to the pros. Remember that when beach volleyball first gained a toe hold in the mid-late 1970s and a major part of its allure was rubbing shoulders with the best of the best. What other sport around can you do that?
Another positive aspect is how nice the pros are. For example, when Tim Bomgrenâ€™s ball rolled onto our court he waved me off, he picked it up himself and said â€œhe needed the work.â€
One of the most accessible and polite players I have ever met in almost 50 years in this sport is Seain Cook. Just like in the old days, if you ring the court you can engage with the players. And the beautiful thing about having 184 courts of action is that you never get bored. You just listen for the roar of the crowd, and it could direct you anywhere, male, female from juniors, Masterâ€™s, Open, A or any of the other plethora of divisions.
Back to the Partain brothers.
They won their first match in â€œmodified pool playâ€ (please donâ€™t ask me to explain what that is) but then ran into 6-foot-4, 36-year-old San Diegan Brian Wells and Walnut Creek, Californiaâ€™s 24-year-old Leor Schiffer in their second match. Who are these guys? Schifferâ€™s best finish in an AVP was 37th. Wells has a 21st place to his credit. By contrast, Miles Partain may be the hottest player in the USA at the moment, and destined to be a future Olympic medalist. But this is beach volleyball, where anything can, and will, and often does happen. Wells and Schiffer improbably won 15-12 in the third. The two of them have permission to promptly retire. It will never get better than this.
Chastened, and despite that bruising loss, the Partains moved on to the playoffs, which given the big field, ended up being a single-elimination format. Miles with his unique look: leggings, tank top, hat flipped up Sinjin Smith style and oversized sunglasses was not about to let that pool-play loss deter him and Marcus. The brothers found their game. First Chris Long and Kyle Stevenson went down 21-18, 21-12. Then in a late Friday match, 45-year-old Jon Mesko and his 47th career partner, Steven Roschitz, succumbed in two. Saturday morning, the Partains picked up where they left off, defeating John Schwengel and Devon Burki 21-18, 21-16.
The next two Partain matches were some of the best and most entertaining of the summer of ’22. In the quarterfinals, they played Sinjin Smithâ€™s son, Hagen, and his partner Jake Dietrich. Jake supposedly stands 6-5, but looks like he is 7 feet tall next to Hagen, who is listed generously at 6-0. The two of them put on quite a show. Like his dad, Hagen is a hoover in the backcourt, digging everything. Unlike his dad, though, he hits a really heavy ball.Â
This center-court match between the Partains and Smith was like a Santa Monica State Beach send up, except played 1,033 miles north in conditions not quite like the deep sand on Court 1 at State. At any rate, the Partains were able to outlast their Westside rivals 21-18, 20-22, 15-10 and move into the semifinals. And if there was a match better than that in the whole tournament it was the next one.Â
The 45-year-old crafty lefty, Ed Ratledge, who played his first AVP the year Miles Partain was born, was ready and waiting. Ratledge, who has played with 31 different partners in his 23-year AVP career, chose Cody Caldwell for Seaside. This is a big team, Caldwell 6-6, and Ratledge 6-8. Miles at 6-3 is an inch taller than Marcus. Moreover, Caldwell was coming off the first win of his career with David Lee at AVP Atlantic City, when they took Chase Frishman and Avery Drost out in the final. So, the stage was set.
Keep in mind that Marcus is a CBVA AA player, not even a triple, in one of the toughest Seaside draws in history, facing off against two AVP veterans with tour wins under their belt.
And this semifinal will go down as one of the most epic Seaside matches in its 40-year history.
Ratledge and Caldwell took the first 22-20. Then the second set was crazy as can be with the Partains pulling it out 34-32 (yes 34-32!). Both teams then geared up for a third set, and the veteran Ratledge should have been exhausted, but with a crazy superhuman motor, guided his younger partner to a 15-10 third game win and a spot in the final.
Who was waiting for them? Drost and Frishman, who had a battle royale of their own in their semifinal against Tim Brewster and Kyle Friend, pulling it out 21-16, 17-21, 15-13. Drost has been a fixture at Seaside year-in and year-out, so much so they should erect a statue at the roundabout, or at the very least name a court after him. Letâ€™s also not forget some of the memorable moments Drost had with the late, great Eric Zaun in the Oregon coastal town.
Not Ratledgian in scope, Drost, 35, nevertheless has played with 27 different partners in his career, but he has played more tourneys with his good friend Frishman, 31, than anyone else. Frishman sort of stepped away from the sport for a couple of years, which may have been the best thing for him. He has been on fire in 2022. A second in that tourney in Atlantic City with Drost. Before that a third with Noah Dyer in Muskegon, and a seventh in New Orleans. And amidst all of those results, a 17th in Denver with, of all people, Ratledge.
So, the stage was set for the final. And it was a bit anti-climactic as Frishman and Drost had it comparatively easy over Ratledge and Caldwell, 21-17, 21-18.
Drost posted on Instagram: â€œI really donâ€™t have the words to describe how happy I am to win this special tournament with one of my best friends in the world,Â @chasefrishÂ He was so good this weekend itâ€™s ridiculous. I love you man Iâ€™m so happy for you and stoked for everything we have ahead.â€
The womenâ€™s open division results were a bit of a surprise.
Carly Skjodt, the 2018 VolleyballMag.com second team All-American for Michigan, teamed Â with Molly Turner for the first time and ran the table at Seaside, seven up and seven down, a superb performance. The key match was in the quarterfinals, where Seaside veteran Carly Kan was playing with fellow Hawaiian Kaitlyn Malaney. The two were having a good summer with a win at Waupaca and a runner-up finish in Denver. Somehow these two teams got stuck early on in the same side of the bracket with Skjodt and Turner emerging, barely, 19-17 in the third. After that they were on their way, as they won in straight sets in both the semis and finals. In the championship they defeated Delaney Mewhirter and Kelly Reeves 21-19, 21-19.
Seaside should be commended for putting on a great tournament (please rake the courts!) year in and year out. It has a distinct personality and uniqueness that should be celebrated by the volleyball community at large. Years ago, the Bud Light four-person tour stopped there and gave the volleyball starved Northwest a taste of some of the sportâ€™s icons. It would be nice to see Seaside as a permanent stop on the AVP Tour Series.