AVP Hermosa Beach Men’s Qualifier Preview: Watch Out For The Return of The Jedi
I’m changing up the style of the preview for AVP Hermosa. No particular reason. Just felt like mixing it up. I’ve split the preview into three categories, writing, as always, on teams I either haven’t yet or haven’t in a while, and they’re due for some ink.
The categories are favorites – those I’d bet to make it through, so if anybody wants some action, hit me up – contenders – those who could make it and you shouldn’t be surprised — and, the Hermosa-specific category, return of the Jedi – those who were once legends and now pop in for an AVP here and there, just to show you that age is just a number, and they’re still dang good.
Paul Lotman, Gabe Ospina
I don’t often feel bad for qualifier teams, because hey! I’m one of them almost every time. But holy cow do I feel for these guys. What more can you possibly ask of them? They’ve made three straight small draw main draws, and knocked off Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb in Austin…and are still in the qualifier! Good heavens. If nothing else shows you just how real the qualifier grind is, allow the journeys of Lotman and Ospina to do so. But they’ve made three mains in a row. No reason to see why they couldn’t make another in Hermosa.
Eric Beranek, Marty Lorenz
It’s weird, having only seen Beranek at two AVPs this year, and none since Austin, which feels like forever ago. Nagging injuries kept him and Lorenz out of New York and Seattle, though Beranek did make the finals in Pottstown, and he defended his Smackfest crown, so he’s still been playing, just on different stages, and in very different types of tournaments. Both Beranek and Lorenz looked healthy enough playing against Ryan Doherty and Miles Evans on Tuesday afternoon, which makes them one of the heaviest favorites to make it through this qualifier (knocking on wood, boys; no writer jinx here).
Logan Webber, DR Vander Meer
After a year and a half off, the band is back together again. In Huntington of 2018, Webber made his first career main draw with Vander Meer, and he has only made one more since, also in Huntington this year, with Christian Honer. Now, after cycling through a few partners each, Vander Meer and Webber are back together again in what I’d expect to be a happy reunion between two physical players who are on the upswing of their careers.
Dave Palm, Dylan Maarek
Sometimes I wonder why it takes certain partnerships to happen between players that just seem to make a lot of sense, and this is one of them. Maarek is such a silky smooth defender with the most deceptively physical game you’ll see in the qualifier, and Palm is still very much the Dave Palm who dominated the NVL, even if he hasn’t made an AVP main draw this season. I love this team, and I love it even more that I don’t have to play them
***hopes to not see them in main draw.
Bobby Jacobs, Ty Tramblie
Tramblie’s back!! What a delightful surprise it was to see his name on the entry list. If you haven’t met him or watched him play, do yourself a favor and head down to the Pier on Thursday and watch this guy. He’s one of the ultimate good guys in beach volleyball, has won an AVP, and may be the humblest guy – back – on Tour. I hope he stays at it, because volleyball is just better with him in it, hands down.
Jake Rosener, Chris Vaughan
Fun team here. Vaughan is one of the funniest guys on the qualifier circuit – he was good friends with Eric Zaun, so what would you expect? Also: Good team here. Rosener has been competing in AVPs for years, making his first main draw in 2014 and career-best of ninth. Vaughan has yet to make his first main draw, but he’s well on his way. He made the final round here in Hermosa last year and, with JM Plummer in New York, beat David Lee in the second round, a win that’s looking better and better with Lee getting scooped by Sean Rosenthal.
Aaren Rice, John Schwengel
It’s fun to watch the reps – thousands and thousands and thousands of reps – for the younger generation beginning to pay off at the next level. This is what’s happening with Schwengel and many of his late-teen, early-20s group – Timmy Brewster, Jon Justice, Adam Wienckowski, the Partains, to name a few. Schwengel is playing excellent volleyball right now, and he’s scooped a big, physical blocker in Rice, who, when hot, can go on serving runs that win matches.
If both serves are hot – Schwengel has a missile of a jumper as well – this is a team that could upset many.
Drew Punjabi, JM Plummer
I can’t really even describe to you how annoyingly scrappy this team is going to be. Both Plummer and Punjabi are super fast, even in the molasses of Hermosa sand, with excellent ball control, great defense and the defensive mindset of “just don’t let the balloon touch the ground.” It’s going to be hard to put a ball down on these guys, even if they don’t have the conventional big-little style that most successful beach teams in the U.S. do. I also must admit, for transparency’s sake, that I do live with Plummer, so writer bias is in full effect here.
Lucas Yoder, Ric Cervantes
It has been exactly a year since we’ve seen Yoder on the beach. He qualified in Hermosa last season with Eric Beranek, taking 15th. Then he was off to play indoor in China, briefly, and Switzerland. Now it appears he’s back, making cameo appearances in some of the fours tournaments on 16th street, and he’s picked up Cervantes, always one of my favorite qualifier guys. This is going to be a solid team, and, per Yoder’s style, low in the seeding.
Brett Ryan, Will Hoey
It has been awhile since we have seen the likes of Brett Ryan, who hasn’t jumped into a qualifier since Hermosa of last year (he was automatic main draw in Manhattan on a wild card bid). For his first event he has hauled in 6-foot-10 Canadian blocker Will Hoey, an all-around good dude who’s also a huge block and is coming off a main draw at the Edmonton Three-Star. Good pull here by Ryan to grab Hoey, and with the little points they have, they’ll be one of the worst land mines in the bracket.
Return of the Jedi
William Strickland, Aaron Wachtfogel
Beach volleyball authors, as a rule, always stick together, so every time Strickland enters a tournament, I am contractually obligated to write about him. Strickland plays in the California tournaments each year, and though he might not be as fit as he was when he was playing alongside Dax Holdren, he’s still not a guy you’d want to see with fresh legs in the first round of the qualifier, much less when he’s got Wachtfogel behind him. Wachtfogel, too, is good for a California tournament here and there, and they nearly upset Logan Webber and Christian Honer in Huntington Beach.
They could pull one off in Hermosa and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Matt Motter, Matt Olson
Somewhere, Mike Brunsting is thanking the beach volleyball gods for automatic main draws. It was only two Manhattans ago that he was in the qualifier, as the one seed, and had to see this team, seeded an absurd Q65, in his first round. They went three, with Brunsting and Jeff Samuels pulling it out, but still: The one seed shouldn’t be pushed by the 65.
Unless that 65 is Matt Olson and Matt Motter.
I don’t care if Motter hasn’t made a main draw since 2015; he’s still got one of the best arms you’ll see. And Olson, no matter how many years he’s taken off from competing full time, is still the same guy who has won multiple AVPs.
Good luck to the unfortunate team in this bracket.
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