The first professional quality beach volleyball tournament of the 2020 season began Thursday very much on par with how the 2020 year has been going: Rain, thunder, lightning, and not as much beach volleyball as the players expected.
Not that too many at the Waupaca Boatride, held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, minded. There was volleyball, after all. No matter how wet, no matter the percussion soundtrack of thunder and the frequent flashes of lightning, there was volleyball being played.
“I love this weather,” Katie Spieler said after the second rain delay postponed the remainder of play. She and Delaney Mewhirter are the top seed on the women’s side.
Spieler wasn’t being sarcastic, either. A California native her entire life — hometown: Santa Barbara — Spieler doesn’t get many thunderstorms. Wins, she gets plenty, however, especially in Oshkosh.
She won here last year, with Carly Wopat, following it up with a second in grass with Wopat and Deahna Kraft, a former Pepperdine beach player who has transferred to play indoors at Wisconsin. And she won both of her matches on Thursday, with Delaney Mewhirter — yeah, yeah, I’m biased, I know — taking the top spot in pool. Theirs was one of just four pools to finish play on the women’s side, with the other four being rain delayed, to finish on Friday morning before the onset of the elimination rounds.
Hailey Harward and Julia Scoles, both USC transfers — Harward from Long Beach, Scoles from Hawai’i — and potentially a court 1 pair come next spring, won pool two. They beat Pepperdine graduate transfer Carly Skjodt and Courtney Baleiko, and Brittany Tiegs and Lauren DeTurk.
Bree Scarbrough and Alexa Strange claimed first in pool three, sweeping both matches. In pool four, Katie Lindstrom and Megan Gebhard also swept both matches, claiming the top spot and a first-round bye.
On the women’s side, all top teams out of pool receive first round byes in the elimination rounds, with the second and third teams also advancing to playoffs.
All but one of 12 pools finished play on the men’s side, with most of the top seeds holding their top position. Miles Evans and Bill Kolinske, Tim and Brian Bomgren, Steve Roschitz and Pete Connole, Bruno Amorim and Raffe Paulis, Mike Boag and I, Andrew Dentler and Chris Vaughan, Chris Luers and Logan Webber, JM Plummer and Garrett Wessberg, Tomas Goldsmith and Max Martin, and Evan Cory and Tim Brewster (double-lefty!) all held their top seeds in pool.
Caleb Kwekel and Heath Hughes recorded one of the only upsets on the day, upending Ben Vaught and Cody Caldwell, 19-21, 21-19, 15-13. Both will still advance to Friday, which is scheduled to be the final day on the sand before grass begins on Saturday, barring any more inclement weather.
Play is expected to begin at 8 on Friday morning and go well into the night, as the rain delays caused the tournament to be backed up by two rounds of matches.
The Waupaca Boatride has been held annually in Wisconsin since 1984, and in Oshkosh specifically since 2010.