AVP Austin: Qualifiers Engineer Record-Setting Day of Upsets
It’s good to have a tight-knit crew around for AVP tournaments, though for Meghan Mannari and Taylor Nyquist, it’s not for the support, necessarily, or a few friendly voices in the stands, but for a bit of the contrary.
“We’ll walk off the court and they’ll be like ‘You guys missed like eight serves.’ ‘How about that double?’” Nyquist said.
Maybe humility, then, courtesy of Daniel Lindsey and the rest of their southern crew, is the secret sauce to the success of Nyquist and Mannari, who emerged from the qualifier to take down the two seed in Geena Urango and Caitlin Ledoux, followed by tenth-seeded Nicolette Martin and Falyn Fonoimoana.
“Honestly, we talked about it, we don’t have expectations for ourselves coming into these things, which I think is helping us,” Nyquist said. “After the first one, it was ‘Ok, that went our way, let’s see what we can do.’ We’ve been doing this for three years now, and the chemistry – I don’t even have to think twice about what I’m saying or what she’s saying to me.”
As expectations go, few rational beach volleyball fans could have foreseen what would become of the bracket on Friday, on both the men’s and the women’s sides. While Nyquist and Mannari were the authors of a pair of upsets, so were fellow qualifiers Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn. The Floridians, seeded seventh in the qualifier, upset No. 3 Brittany Howard ad Kelly Reeves, 21-19, 21-17, before another straight-set win over No. 6 Katie Spieler and Kim DiCello.
With both advancing to the quarterfinals, where they’ll see each other at 8 a.m., it guarantees that a qualifier team will be making a Sunday, something that’s only been done twice in the past 17 AVP events – Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon in Chicago 2018, and Sarah Pavan and Skylar Caputo in Seattle 2017.
“It’s been crazy,” Nyquist said. “It’s fun to see.”
Crazy is an apt descriptor of Friday, a day in which the top seeds of both genders were upset in the first round. Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb, victors in Huntington Beach just two weeks ago, were stunned by qualifiers Paul Lotman and Gabe Ospina, who battled back from down 18-20 at the freeze in the second set to win 15-13 in the third.
The next match on stadium was, unpredictably, unbelievably, more of the same, as qualifiers Katie Lindelow and Lauren Dickson, Texans both, put Betsi Flint and Emily Day in the contender’s bracket with a 14-21, 21-17, 15-12 win. For the first time in history, both one seeds fell in the first round, throwing all conventional bracket wisdom somewhere at the bottom of Barton Springs.
The ensuing result has been, for fans, delightful, and for players sometimes devastating. One does not expect to see Gibb and Crabb or Flint and Day in the first round of the contender’s bracket, and yet such was the fate of Mark Burik and Ian Satterfield and Delaney Knudsen and Allie Wheeler.
“It’s not what we expected,” Knudsen said, “but we were excited about the fact that we could send the first seed home.”
Neither went home on Friday, and the extended route isn’t even all that unfamiliar to Crabb or Flint or Day. Last year, when Gibb was out with an injury and Crabb was playing with Tim Bomgren, he lost in the second round and promptly made the finals. Flint and Day lost in the second round of San Francisco and went on to win their second title of the year.
A different road, sure. A bit longer than normal. But that’s the beauty of main draw, as opposed to the qualifiers Nyquist and Mannari and Lindelow and Dickson and Lotman and Ospina grinded through: You get a second chance.
Mannari and Nyquist haven’t needed theirs just yet. They’re perfectly content with the one they’ve got, and the crew that keeps them humble.
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