AVP Seattle men's preview

AVP Seattle Men’s Preview: Avery Drost, Miles Evans Head Another Deep Qualifier

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The final small-draw for a few months is here, at the stunning Lake Sammamish for AVP Seattle. Sixteen-team draws always make for dreaded Thursdays for players, but fascinating ones for fans to follow, as teams that are accustomed to being in the main draw are thrown into the gauntlet once more, making for several main draw-quality rounds a day early.

Such is the nature of AVP Seattle, which, again, will be another deep affair on Thursday. Here’s the men’s preview of teams to watch both at the top and bottom of the qualifier.

Miles Evans, Avery Drost

And so life moves on.

For the first time this season, Avery Drost will be blocking for someone not named Eric Zaun. Miles Evans is filling in after playing New York with Marty Lorenz. My heart goes out to Avery here. This is my vote, which, I must humbly and sadly admit, counts for nothing: give an emergency wild card to Avery and Evans. But, seeing as they had not received one as of this writing, it seems he’ll be back in the qualifier for the first time since Seattle of 2016. Worked out well enough then: He took a third with Gregg Weaver and followed it up with a third in New York two weeks later.

Raffe Paulis, David Lee

Paulis is now on his fourth partner in as many tournaments this season. Such is the nature of AVP qualifiers, although he does have some tournament experience with Lee. They played Laguna together, losing a tight three-setter to Gabe Ospina and Paul Lotman on the final Saturday match. They’re a good team, should they find some chemistry, which does take time. But their skillsets match up well enough, and Lee’s enormous block, coupled with Paulis’s steady defense, will lend itself well to a lot of opportunities in transition.

Steven Irvin, Hagen Smith

Tough year for these two so far. A reminder, though: Smith didn’t make his first main draw until San Francisco a year ago, where he took ninth; Irvin is still seeking his first, and he’s fully capable of doing so.

Smith’s been battling a few nagging injuries, which hasn’t helped. But on the right day, this team is as tough as they come, particularly from the service line when Smith is banging his gnarly hybrid jump serve and Irvin is unloading his howitzer. All it takes is one good day.

Chris Austin, Kris Johnson

These two may have played in more tournaments than any team, men’s or women’s, regardless of level, in the country. They’re at every AVP Next, CBVA, qualifier and p1440 Developmental Tournament. All those reps are beginning to pay off. They stunned Mark Burik and Ian Satterfield in straight sets in the New York qualifier before getting bounced themselves, but the message was sent loud and clear: This is a team that is fully capable of beating anyone.

Brian Miller, Kacey Losik

Good to see these guys back on the sand. Both made main draw in Huntington Beach – Miller with Jon Ferrari, Losik with Lev Priima – but haven’t been competing since. Now they’re teaming up together in what should be a solid team. Miller’s 6-foot-7, so he brings a big, physical block for Losik to play his always-steady defense behind. Siding out should be no issue at all, as Miller swings high and deep and Losik has his hang, and hang, and hang some more — and then snap. It’s impossible to time and frustrating as all get out to block.

Brandon Joyner, Kyle Stevenson

Two OG Road Dogs right here. Both Joyner and Stevenson, two fantastic human beings anybody should take the time to get to know, are tweeners, waffling between blocking and defending, so it seems they’ve just decided to give the whole split-blocking thing a try. Joyner carried my big behind to a third in an AVP Next Gold Series in Virginia Beach last weekend, so I can personally attest to his ability to dig a ball, while Stevenson has this long, smooth style that’ll remind you of Kyle Friend (that’s a compliment).

S10, boys.

Kris Fraser, Angel De la Cruz

This team proved, in Austin, they can hang with anybody after upsettingBen Vaught and Spencer Sauter in the first round. Fraser, meanwhile, just played excellent ball in a Virginia Beach Gold Series AVP Next, falling in the semifinals to Chris Luers and Logan Webber. Fraser is a big, jumpy blocker while De la Cruz is a quicksilver fast and springy defender. If nothing else, this team is going to touch a lot of balls defensively, and swing at a ton of balls offensively.

Note: The original version of this story listed Angel Dache, not Angel De la Cruz.

Shane Cervantes, Ric Cervantes

The Cervantes Hermanos! Love it when two excellent human beings who also happen to be excellent volleyball players who also happen to be brothers play together. These guys are super frustrating to play against, because their ball control is just about perfect and they hardly ever make an error. It’s really difficult to beat a team that never giftwraps you points. Shane’s coming off a mild injury suffered during the Memorial Day CBVA, but by all accounts this team should be just fine.

Evan Cory, John Hamilton

This team is deep enough in the seeding to be labeled a land mine. Cory, a lefty opposite at Lincoln Memorial, has a game that has shades of Troy Field’s. He jumps extremely well and hits angles most 6-foot-4 blockers just shouldn’t be hitting, but he does anyway. Hamilton, meanwhile, has skipped a few this year after the birth of his son, Maverick — who might be hand-setting like dad already – and finishing out his engineering degree. This team has an intangible element most in the qualifier do not: team chemistry. They’ve been competing together – and winning lots of tournaments together – for several years now.

What’s one more qualifier?

Justin Johnson, Cody Caldwell

Land mine No. 2. Johnson and Caldwell recently paired up in the summer session for the p1440 Developmental Program, and already it’s clear they have chemistry, beating an excellent team in Earl Schultz and Jake Urrutia to make the semifinals of their first tournament together. Caldwell was the go-to hitter on a National Championship team at Loyola Chicago, while Johnson has been playing solid ball on the beach for years now. Both have just been seeking the right partner fit, and early indications are that they’ve found just that.

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