AVP New York: Where Potential Finals Are Being Played in The First Round

Manhattan is the smallest and most densely populated borough of New York City. New York County is the most densely populated county in the United States.

It was at this time a year ago that my parents saw their first AVP tournament, in New York City. They marveled at not only the proximity of the athletes, but the overwhelming geniality of them, the openness, the willingness to just chat about nothing.

It makes me feel a touch bad that I’m sitting in La Paz, Mexico, writing this story, for not only are they missing out on that again, but they’re missing on what could quite possibly the most talent-rich AVP tournament there has been in recent memory.

Peruse the first round of either side and you will find what is essentially a list of potential finals matches.

Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb vs. Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger? A Huntington Beach semifinalsit vs. a finalist.

Caitlin Ledoux and Geena Urango vs. Jace Pardon and Karissa Cook? A Sunday regular from a year ago and the recent Austin champs.

Wherever you turned, there was phenomenal volleyball being played. Not that Austin or Huntington were bad tournaments. Not at all. Huntington was a big draw and, by nature, featured a number of main draw matchups that didn’t necessarily feature teams vying for Olympic spots in the first round. Austin collided with a four-star FIVB and was thus bereft of some of the country’s top talent.

Not in New York. The Big Apple features all of the big names, as it should. Small draw. Big money. No FIVB conflicts.

All of the fanfare.

It delivered, too. One of the first matches of the day featured the decorated duo of Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos and the AVP San Francisco champs from a year ago in Ed Ratledge and Rafu Rodriguez. And what a treat that was: a 23-21, 21-18 win for the Olympians, which preceded three three-set matches on the men’s side in the first round, the most thrilling of which likely could be awarded to Bourne-Crabb over Patterson-Budinger.

And that, of course, preceded the always delightful Crabb on Crabb warfare. The second round was the second time Trevor and Taylor Crabb have played one another this season, and it featured all the usual brotherly love: trash talk, finger wagging, a bump under the net, stare-downs.

It also featured the same result: Taylor and Jake Gibb pulling it out in three, 15-13 in the third, alas staying in the winner’s bracket heading into day two, something they haven’t been able to do yet this season.

So, sorry mom. Sorry, dad. No New York for you this year. You had to miss April Ross and Alix Klineman cruise-controlling their way to another winner’s bracket quarterfinal. And Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, one of the most entertaining teams in the country, swagger their way into the quarters to meet them for the second time in as many weeks.

You missed out, too, on Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, who seemed as primed as they ever have been to make the AVP breakthrough that has been so long in the coming. They beat the Austin finalists, Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn and Pardon and Cook, by a combined 27, in a sport where you only need to win by two.

Now they’ll see Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, who made alarmingly quick work of Brandie Wilkerson, named the FIVB Blocker of the Year in 2018, and Brooke Sweat, who’s currently one of the top defenders on the planet. They won, 21-11, 21-13, and they’ll see Larsen and Stockman tomorrow.

If you’re in the area, I’d suggest you make your way to New York City or, at the very least, to Amazon.com.

It might only be Saturday, but there’s finals volleyball to be watched.

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