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AVP Hermosa Beach Open

AVP Hermosa: Historically Upset-Filled Tournaments Are Becoming The Norm

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Photo: AVP

HERMOSA BEACH — Maybe we should have known, from day one, that this tournament would be wacky, a zany, upset-filled affair. Then again, it should have made it easier, from all those day one upsets, shouldn’t it?

When only two seeds held up in the men’s qualifier, and just three held for the women’s, few would have predicted that the teams that did make it through could have possibly sustained a run through main draw.

Zana Muno and Crissy Jones were seeded 47th for a reason, weren’t they? Megan Rice and Katie Hogan were ranked 13th for a reason, weren’t they?

For Muno and Jones, that seeding seemed appropriate at first blush. A 21-14, 21-10 drubbing in their first main draw match seemed proof enough that they still had a ways to go until they began to establish themselves in the main draw.

A few hours off the legs was all it appeared they needed to begin establishing themselves in the main draw. They won a three-setter over fellow collegians and qualifiers Morgan Martin and Iya Lindahl to make Saturday, and then they won every three-setter that came after that: 15-12 over Kim DiCello and Kelly Reeves, 16-14 over wild cards Delaynie Maple and Megan Kraft.

Ten matches and 23 sets was all it took for that 47th-seeded team in the qualifier to be among the final four teams standing. And yet, improbably, incredibly, they weren’t the only qualifier team in the mix.

Also still standing was Rice and Hogan, who took a more traditional path to the semifinals, winning through the quarterfinals, dropping to top-seeded Betsi Flint and Emily Day, then rebounding with a win over Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn to get back into the semis, where they’d play, astoundingly, another qualifier team in Sheila Shaw and Mackenzie Ponnet.

Never mind the fact that Shaw suffered a spiral fracture in her finger during the qualifier. Never mind the fact that they had played three matches in that qualifier and had dropped the first set in all three.

They were just fine in main draw, broken finger and all, beating the 15 seed, beating the two seed – again dropping the first set – beating the seven seed, beating Maple and Kraft, those teenage models of precocity.

“This was awesome,” Flint said afterwards. “A lot of people came out of the qualifier, played a ton of matches. They had a great tournament, they were a tough team to beat, and we’re really happy we pulled it through.”

Awesome is an accurate summation of what this tournament was, from start to finish. It was awesome to see a record number of teams sign up between the men’s and the women’s side. One-hundred and seven men’s teams populated the qualifier. Eighty-two for the women. Throw in another 263 AVP First teams and more than 500 beach volleyball teams were competing in Hermosa Beach this weekend.

Throw that many teams onto a beach and something wacky is bound to happen. And plenty did. It was the first time in AVP history multiple qualifier teams made the semifinals, much less three of four. It was Miles Evans’ second career AVP main draw – and he made his first career final. He lost that final to Chase Budinger, which was history in itself, as the win marked the first of what is promising to be a spectacular career.

It was not Flint’s first victory but it was her first time competing in Hermosa, and their flawless run marked her first AVP tournament without dropping a single set.  

“We’d like to think so,” Flint said when asked if she thought her and Day were playing their best volleyball. “We came off a silver [at a Three-Star in Edmonton], we were hungry to win, and we’re glad we won here in Hermosa.”

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