Top 2 seeds advance to Semifinals, Qualifiers earn a 5th in AVP Huntington

Robbie Page

The top two seeds on both the men’s and women’s side advanced Saturday to Sunday’s semifinals at AVP Huntington. What is surprising is that one team on both sides came out of the qualifier to finish fifth.

Top seed Ryan Doherty/John Mayer overcame their second round loss to Billy Allen/Theo Brunner (19-21,21-19,15-17) to climb through the contenders bracket to the semifinals. No. 2 seed Jacob Gibb/Casey Patterson rode three straight set wins to the semifinals, including a pair of deuce games against Tim and Brian Bomgren (27-25, 22-20).

On the women’s side, top seed April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings earned their semifinal berth without dropping a set; no team scored more than 14 points against them. No. 2 seed Kim DiCello and Kendra VanZwieten dropped to the contender’s bracket with a 19-21, 21-16, 15-11 loss to Lane Carico/Summer Ross, but were able to progress to Sunday’s semifinals.

Rookie qualifiers fared well Saturday. Curt Toppel/Miles Evans, the ninth seed in the qualifier, made an improbable run through the contenders bracket with wins over Russ Marchewka/Dave McKienzie (21-16, 21-11), a forfeit from Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena, and Robbie Page/Todd Rogers (17-21,21-14, 15-10). Their run was halted by Allen/Brunner, who advanced to the semifinals 21-16, 21-18.

Curt Toppel is a well-known veteran on the AVP tour, who earned his first fifth-place finish last year in Manhattan Beach with Mark Burik.

Miles Evans, a product of Santa Barbara, is virtually unknown; this is the first time he has made the main draw. Evan’s profile page doesn’t even have a photo.

“I didn’t think I would get here, I can tell you that much. It’s surreal. I went from barely making it out of the first round of the qualifier to being here, Evans said. It’s just all hard work, picking up a great partner, and getting a little lucky.”

Sure, Evans had a little luck. He did benefit from the withdrawal of Olympians Dalhausser/Lucena. Sure, he did pick up a great partner. But Evans made the most of his opportunities Saturday. He played stellar defense, read the opposing hitters well, and he tooled the block when he had to.

Asked about his preparation for the tournament, Evans replied: “I’ve been practicing every day for two-to-three hours, hitting the weight room three times a week, and just grinding away trying to get here”.

On the women’s side, Ali Daley McColloch/Kelly Reeves were the second seed in the qualifier. McColloch/Reeves scored a first round upset against No. 4 seed Amanda Dowdy/Emily Stockman (21-17, 19-21,12-15), but were dropped to the contenders bracket by Angela Bensend/Geena Urango (25-23, 21-18).

McColloch/Reeves progressed through the contender’s bracket with wins over Katie Jameson/Tracy Jones (21-15, 21-19) and Christal Engle/Jessica Stubinski (21-19, 21-14). Their bid for a semifinal was denied by Kim DiCello/Kendra VanZwieten (21-14, 22-20) to finish fifth.

Ali Daley McColloch is a physical veteran blocker on the tour. Her volleyball resume includes two third-place finishes, Cincinnati with Brittany Hochevar and Mason with Emily Stockman. Her partner choice of relatively unknown Kelly Reeves may have raised some eyebrows.

Reeves is a newbie to the AVP tour. But she won an indoor championship with UCLA in 2011 and was UCLA’s first AVCA beach All-American in 2013. Like Evans, Reeves’ page doesn’t have a photo. Although this is Reeves’ first AVP competition, she has been competing on the NorCECA circuit, garnered two first places, a second and a third. After only two tournaments, Reeves looks to make a strong bid for AVP rookie of the year.

The AVP Huntington Finals will be broadcast live on NBCSN at 12:30 PST.

Tournament notes:

The tournament marks Brad Keenan’s retirement from the game as a player. Keenan suffered a back tweak after Friday’s matches, and settled for seventh. Keenan has accepted a position as head coach of beach volleyball at Arizona State University. Keenan, a Pepperdine alumnus and former indoor player of the year, has enjoyed a distinguished ten year career, including two first-place AVP finishes and a fourth-place FIVB finish .

New mother Christal Engle returned to competition on Mother’s Day weekend, finishing in seventh place with Jessica Stubinski.

“Honestly, I feel like I was way better, being a mom; I was playing more relaxed, with nothing to lose, and I think that’s when I perform my best, Engle said.


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