AVP New York Men's Preview

AVP New York Men’s Preview: The Deepest Qualifier of Them All

Skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan as Seen from New Jersey at Night, United States

Last year seemed tough enough. With Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan – then the No. 1 team in the world – relegated to the qualifier, AVP New York City of 2018 certainly put on the look of the most difficult qualifier to date.

This year, for both the men and the women, may well surpass that. This is, of course, no disrespect to Pavan and Humana-Paredes, who have maintained their status as one of the top teams in the world. It’s just that this year’s qualifier is – especially with Austin proving just how good these qualifier teams are becoming – well, it’s as loaded as any.

Chase Frishman and Piotr Marciniak, two players who have made an AVP semifinal in a major event – Hermosa Beach 2017 for both – are in the qualifier. Ty Loomis, an AVP champion juat two years ago, in San Francisco, is in the qualifier. Madison and Riley McKibbin, who have made 19 consecutive main draws, are in the qualifier. And that’s just the guys. And that’s just the top few seeds.

Amanda Dowdy was playing in a semifinal less than a year ago, in Seattle. She’s in the qualifier, alongside Corinne Quiggle. Nicolette Martin and Falyn Fonoimoana were playing on a Sunday just a few weeks ago, in Austin. They’re in the qualifier.

Heck, Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn were playing in a final just a few weeks ago, and not only are they still in the qualifier – they’re the sixth seed in it.

Welcome to the most loaded AVP of the season.

Welcome to New York.

Men’s qualifier preview

You know the favorites. You know Frishman and Marciniak, Mark Burik and Ian Satterfield, Loomis and Mike Brunsting, the McKibbins. This will be a look into some of the teams whom you may not know or, if you do, don’t know much about but could make it in all the same.

Raffe Paulis, Duncan Budinger

I nabbed Budinger’s usual partner, Kyle Friend, for a NORCECA in La Paz, Mexico, that conflicts with New York, so while we’re enjoying the breathtaking beaches in Mexico, Budinger will be in the Big Apple, with my old partner, Raffe Paulis.

Raffe is one of the most dynamic defenders in any qualifier. He can play right. He can play left. He can play with good setters. He can play with bad setters. With big blockers and with small blockers (hey, he made it in with me; you need no further proof). He’ll be just fine with Budinger, who sets well, puts up a big block and sides out at a consistent clip.  

DR Vander Meer, Jeff Samuels

This team – a new one, to be sure, but still having played together enough to be labeled as a team – is as hot as they come in the qualifier. They played a two-day tournament in Hermosa on Memorial Day weekend, making the finals, where they fell to Andrew Dentler and Dylan Maarek in the finals. Then they put together an excellent run in Laguna, beating a host of strong teams in Miles Evans and Billy Kolinske, Ben Vaught and Spencer Sauter, and Paul Lotman and Gabe Opsina before bowing out to, forgivably, Sean Rosenthal and Mark Williams.

Vander Meer has bounced around with a few partners this season, as has Samuels, but there seems to be something valuable here, at least in the early goings.

Mike Boag, Logan Webber

Webber had a fantastic start to the year with Christian Honer, emerging from the AVP Huntington qualifier and picking up a main draw win over Frishman and Marciniak once in. Then Austin came, and the two were bounced in the first round, and such is, for now, the end of Webber-Honer.

Boag, in the meantime, has been popping around, running a NORCECA in Nicaragua with Timmy Brewster rather than playing Huntington. Boag and Webber ran Laguna together, piecing a decent tournament in their first as partners. Now it’s onto New York. Bigger stakes. Bigger field. A big test for a new partnership.

Adam Roberts, Andy Benesh

Don’t count out Adam Roberts just yet. He’s had a frustrating run the past year and a half or so; there isn’t much denying that. But he’s also come close, and then a little closer, particularly in Austin with Andy Benesh, former partner of Cole Fiers. Roberts and Benesh, a 6-foot-9 blocker out of USC who plays as big as his listing, if not bigger, pushed Paul Lotman and Gabe Ospina to 15-13 in the third set of the final round of the qualifier, a loss that looks even better after Lotman and Ospina stunned Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb in the first round of main draw the next day.

Roberts has the ball control, Benesh has the size and a pair of excellent hands to set the veteran defender. Twice Roberts has made it to the final round of the qualifier this season. Keep knocking on the door, it’ll open up eventually.

Miles Evans, Marty Lorenz

Evans hasn’t played in an AVP since 2017, when he and Brian Cook – heal up, big fella! – fell to Brunsting and Frishman in the final round of Huntington Beach. Whether this is a one-off for the two or a new domestic partnership remains to be seen, as Lorenz was previously with Eric Beranek, who had to undergo minor surgery and will be back for Seattle – also: heal up, big fella! Until then, this is not a team many will look forward to seeing.

Evans’ longtime partner, Billy Kolinske, is in a limbo with the AVP, so Evans has had to get creative with his partner situation, pulling Lorenz for New York. They’ve played together before, though never in an AVP, but both have played enough volleyball that picking up the chemistry of a new partnership will be no difficult task.

Justin Phipps, Garrett Peterson

If you combine the number of tournaments played by every aforementioned player in this story, you may not reach the number played by Justin Phipps, the beach volleyball journeyman’s journeyman. He’s picked up a fellow south Floridian in Garrett Peterson, whose jump will remind you of Troy Field’s absurdly acrobatic springs, and whose physicality will rival most in the qualifier. How consistent this team will be is the unknown, but the ceiling is certainly high, and in a qualifier, all it takes is a few good matches.

Stephen Roschitz, Peter Connole

The results haven’t been there yet for these two, but that’s how qualifiers go, especially early on. Both are exceptional athletes, and it was just a few AVPs ago that Roschitz qualified in Chicago. Connole, a former basketball player at West Florida, puts up a big block and provides a fair amount of ball control for his size. It’s a lower seeded team, but one that I’d have no qualm labeling a “bad draw” to a higher seed.

Earl Schultz, Jake Urrutia

These two recently joined the p1440 Developmental Program, and the past few weeks are the first I’ve seen them play, the first impression being: They’re incredibly athletic, and they’re grinders. Schultz played basketball and volleyball in college, which says enough about his athletic ability, while Urrutia played indoor at Rutgers. In Chicago and Huntington, they made the final round, and in Austin, they nearly toppled Daniel Dalanhese and Joe Hillman, one of the best teams in the qualifier.

They haven’t made it yet, but in enough time, they will.

Miles Partain, Marcus Partain

If you’re a soon-to-be parent and want advice on how to raise two excellent kids, you should have a word with Mr. and Mrs. Partain, whose boys, Marcus and Miles, are both phenomenal volleyball players and exceptional young men. At the Pan American Games qualifier last week in Hermosa Beach, they used 20-plus mile per hour winds to their advantage, passing everything low and on the money, upsetting Evans and Kolinske in the semifinals. Both are fantastic passers and setters, so the range of their offense is enormous, deploying jump-shoot sets, a coterie of option plays, and, perhaps most valuably, limiting errors to almost none.

It explains why they were able to beat teams such as Kyle Friend and I, Webber and Honer, and Evans and Kolinske. They’re just high schoolers, but they’re no gimmick. The Partains are as legitimate as they come.

Aaren Rice, Kevin Villela

Few have had worse luck than Villela, whose shoulder has undergone surgery, then surgery again, then surgery again, until now Humpty Dumpty has finally been pieced back together again. Villela is a workhorse of a defender with a massive offensive window, an excellent complement to Rice, a 6-foot-4 blocker with a 6-foot-9 wingspan who may have the best serve of anyone – when he hits it in bounds – in the qualifier. I should know: He aced Shane Donohue and I off the court last year.

They don’t have many points, but this is a superb defensive team, very physical offensive team, and one that will outwork most they play.