AVP Saturday Highlighted by Newcomers Troy Field, Melissa Humana Paredes
Troy Field’s already thinking ahead.
“What if,” he wondered from the med tent, as two physiotherapists worked his thoroughly beaten legs, “I don’t live up to the hype in Austin? Ah, crap.”
Hoooooold up, Troy. You’ve got a Sunday to play. Your first.
Forgive the 25-year-old if he’s getting a bit ahead of himself. Life’s moving pretty fast at the moment. A year ago he didn’t even make it out of the qualifier of this event, one of four in which he wouldn’t appear in the main draw.
“I didn’t even play four events last year,” he said, laughing.
One year later, he’s playing on a Sunday.
Well, technically speaking, it’s not his first Sunday. He’s made a few NORCECA Sundays. He recently won a gold medal in a snow volleyball event, the finals of which took place on a Sunday.
“But that,” he said, laughing, always laughing, “was kind of a joke.”
That was a lot of wine and pasta and road tripping and, eh, let’s play some volleyball through a blizzard, why don’t we? This is different. This is the AVP. This is the reason Field is living in Southern California. This is what he’s dreamed of since he was slapping it around with the old fellas at Doheny, watching every snippet of film he could get on Karch Kiraly.
“I think I blacked out,” he said, when the final ball fell in an epic, topsy turvy, run-filled, fun-filled quarterfinal against Chaim Schalk and Jeremy Casebeer. “I just fell to my knees and, man…”
He trails off. Let the path speak for him, while he gets his knotted muscles worked out. His first main draw match in his first main draw in Huntington Beach, where he began this beach dream in earnest?
Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos.
“What kind of a draw is that?” he said. Not a bad one, evidently. Down went Rosenthal, a two-time Olympian, and Santos, a four-time Olympian and arguably the greatest blocker who has ever lived. That, of course, set up a second-round match with the only blocker who can rival Santos’ pedigree: Phil Dalhausser.
It was close: 21-18, 21-17, in favor of Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. Tim Bomgren, Field’s partner, playing in their first event together, would later call it a solid match. A harbinger for a wild day to come, one that would include wins over two of the toughest servers on tour – Rafu Rodriguez and Jeremy Casebeer – one of Field’s mentors in Huntington – Ed Ratledge – and yet another Olympian from another country – Chaim Schalk, who competed for Canada in 2016.
“It was crazy,” Field said. “It’s one of those crazy things where I feel like we haven’t even skipped a beat, and we haven’t gotten on rhythm. We gel so much off the court and he’s just the right intensity, just the right calm – it’s just crazy.”
Yes. Crazy seems to be the correct word. Crazy that his only loss this season is to Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. Crazy that three Olympians from three countries have taken losses to this fun new team. Crazy that he finished higher than Dalhausser and Lucena and has Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger in Sunday’s semifinals, a team he’s seen plenty, one that includes yet another Olympian.
Crazy, too, on the women’s side.
Another has made her first AVP Huntington Beach main draw while simultaneously making her first AVP Sunday as well. She’s not too concerned about the hype. No, Melissa Humana-Paredes has been on these types of stages before. Many times, and many times to come.
It was unfortunate American fans couldn’t be treated to the delight that is watching her and Sarah Pavan, who compete for Canada, a year ago. An odd rule that required the AVP pay a sanctioning fee for foreign players to compete has been lifted, allowing Humana-Paredes and Pavan, who competed in New York a year ago, to play on the AVP full-time. The impact has been swift, immediate.
As the 14-seed, they have yet to lose a set, thumping four straight opponents by a combined 168-109, earning a semifinal berth against Emily Day and Betsi Flint while the two top teams in America, Sara Hughes and Summer Ross and April Ross and Alix Klineman, slug it out in the other.
It made Saturday, and potentially Sunday, too, a day of rookies. A potential omen of fun, new faces to follow on the AVP.
It’s made for one heck of an opening weekend.
So don’t worry about Austin just yet, Troy. That’s still two weeks away.
You’ve got a Sunday to play.
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