OSHKOSH, Wisconsin — Had you been going purely off the reactions of the 513th point of Julia Scoles’s and Hailey Harward’s weekend, you’d have never known they had just won the Waupaca Boatride. Perhaps it was because it was their sixth match, 513th point, 14th set, through, as Scoles would say, “very interesting weather conditions all around, blazing heat, monsoon, wind.”
They won through them all, the final of which came against Katie Spieler and Delaney Mewhirter — and neither realized, at first, that they had just won the whole thing.
“On the last ball we were like ‘Wait, it’s 15-11. Is the game over? Did that happen?’” Harward said.
It did, a bit to the surprise of them both. Waupaca, one of several in the new AVP Next Gold Series, was the first career win for Scoles, which is a bit of a shock when you hear it for the first time. This is a 23-year-old whose talent has taken her from the University of North Carolina to Hawai’i to, now, USC, where she’ll be rooming with Harward come fall.
And she had never won a tournament?
She’s been close, of course. A little less than a year ago, it was Scoles and Carly Kan who were in the finals of Seaside, another AVP Next Gold. There, they met Mewhirter and Spieler as well. The results were flipped this time around, as Scoles and Harward won 14-21, 21-17, 15-11, claiming Scoles’s first tournament win and their first as a team in a debut that no doubt has USC coach Dain Blanton thrilled.
“As soon as I knew she was coming, Dain had talked her up, I reached out to her and said ‘Hey, I know it’s Covid, and there aren’t many tournaments, but if there are, do you want to play together?’” said Harward, who played for Long Beach State prior to transferring to USC for the truncated 2020 season. “We’re going to be roommates, so this would be a great trip even if we don’t get to play, just to get to know each other, see if we vibe.”
They vibed just fine, winning every match despite having only a single day of practice prior to the tournament. It was a much different winner than that of the men’s side, which again went to Bill Kolinske and Miles Evans, who at this point may not need to practice with each other at all prior to an event and win the whole thing.
Winners of the 2019 Waupaca Boatride as well, Kolinske and Evans lost only one set en route to another victory in Oshkosh, just two hours from Kolinske’s upbringing in Big Bend.
“That’s why I love playing with Bill,” Evans said. “He fires me up.”
In the finals, they beat Wisconsin natives Tomas Goldsmith and Max Martin, who beat Chris Luers and Logan Webber in the second round of playoffs before engineering an upset over hometown favorites Brian and Tim Bomgren in the quarterfinals and a three-set win over Andrew Dentler and Chris Vaughan in the semis.
For Evans and Kolinske, Waupaca is as much about winning the tournament as it is simply playing one, a final phase of preparation prior to the AVP Champions Cup, which will be held over the course of the next three weeks.
“It gives me a lot of confidence going into next week,” Evans said. “I haven’t competed since October, so this is going to give me a little bit of an edge over the competition that hasn’t really competed. They’ve been practicing in Hermosa for maybe a month, so I’ll be ready.”