AVP Seattle Women's Preview

AVP Seattle Women’s Preview: Beware, The Young Talent is Coming


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 women’s preview of teams to watch both at the top and bottom of the qualifier.

Falyn Fonoimoana, Pri Lima

You hate to see a team with nearly 1,800 points get wild carded out of the main draw and into the qualifier, but these things happen sometimes – the McKibbins can relate from Seattle a year ago – as the AVP finds unique opportunities to get new and young faces onto the sport’s biggest stage. Sometimes there’s just a payoff, and in that case, it’s Fonoimoana and Lima who get the short end of the stick here.

Qualifier or main draw, this is a darn good volleyball team, and one that is just so, so smooth. What happened with Fonoimoana and Nicolette Martin after New York, I’m not entirely sure, but this is a team that has proven it can succeeed.

Brittany Tiegs, Molly Turner

The partnership shuffles carry on. Tiegs had played the season, up to this point, with Jessica Sykora, while Turner had been competing with Jessica Gaffney. They’ve played together before, these two, at the Hermosa Beach two-day tournament, so they’re not going in blind. And anyway, both are great players with personalities that should complement one another well: Turner with the competitive fire, Tiegs with a quieter demeanor. Whether this is a long term option or just a band-aid is yet to be seen, but new partnerships are always fun to watch.

Tory Paranagua, Traci Callahan

Both Paranagua and Callahan have spent extensive time training and competing in Brazil either this off-season or intermittently during the season, and therefore will hereby be known as Team Little Brazil. Paranagua made it through the New York qualifier – an enormous feat – with Taylor Nyquist, and nearly shocked Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, pushing them to three sets in the opening round. Callahan, after a promising start with Maria Clara Salgado in Huntington, has cooled a touch but is still playing phenomenal volleyball.

Boa sorte, senhoras.

Lauren DeTurk, Aurora Davis

Aurora’s back! One of the most impressive feats in sports, I think, is to have a child and then play at the level demanded of professional athletes. And yet Davis just keeps doing it. This will be her first tournament back after her most recent pregnancy – congratulations, by the way! – and she’s picked up a steady partner in DeTurk. It’ll be good to see Davis and her band of rugrats back on the sand again.

Jessica Gaffney, Payton Rund

While Turner turned – pun maybe half-intended here – to Tiegs, Gaffney has gone to Florida State’s Payton Rund. Rund had an excellent run — I got puns for days, y’all — in Austin, dropping in the final round to eventual finalists Sarah Schermerhorn and Kim Hildreth who are, bless their souls, still in the qualifier. Both have had their share of success, and both have competed well at a high level.

Megan Kraft, Delaynie Maple

I can already feel myself overusing the word “precocious”, what with all these high school and college kids mopping up professionals on the regular. These two – and a few who will follow – are precociousness personified, a pair of high schoolers who made the Huntington Beach main draw as the 26 seed in the qualifier, and then went on to win a main draw match and very nearly took a second. It’s fun to see the trickle-down effect the college game is having on the women’s side. These two are a prime example.  

Carissa Whalen, Chelsea Ross

Neither of these players have made a main draw, but both have begun challenging good teams consistently enough that they are not far from it, especially since this is their first tournament as a team. In Huntington Beach, Whalen lost a narrow one to the Lindquist sisters, Katie Jameson and Tracy Jones, and then a three-setter in Austin to Katie Lindstrom and Carolyn Meister. Ross, meanwhile, pushed Emily Hartong and Alexa Strange, two main draw regulars, to three in Austin and went 20-22, 19-21 with Lara Dykstra and Kim Smith in New York. Push teams like that consistently enough, and eventually the wins will come.  

Peri Brennan, Piper Naess

Brennan, who accompanied Kyle Friend and I on our most recent #NORCECAAdventures to La Paz, Mexico, might have some of the best hands on the AVP, men or women. A Laguna native, she’s already committed to UCLA as a junior in high school, so she’s already working with Stein Metzger and Jeremy Casebeer. Not a bad couple guys to have in your box at such an impressionable age.

I don’t know much about Naess, other than she’s an outside hitter at Laguna High and was named the Wave League MVP on 450 kills, 410 digs and 45 aces. From that, we can all safely assume she’s a heck of an athlete, and a good fit for Brennan’s excellent ball control.

Iya Lindahl, Mariah Whalen

At the professional level, Lindahl is best known for becoming, with former Cal teammate Jessica Gaffney, the lowest seed in the qualifier to make a main draw, climbing from Q84 to make Hermosa a year ago. She is much more than a one-hit wonder, though. She was excellent on court three with Cal this season, and with Mariah Whalen she has picked up an athletic former outside at Wisconsin for whom to defend.

Whalen, who is transferring to Cal Poly, has a beach background, too, winner of the USA Volleyball Junior Beach National Championship in 2014.

Crissy Jones, Zana Muno

I was bummed to see this team not make it into Austin, but a cap does need to be imposed on certain qualifiers, and with zero points, it’s understandable the Cal Poly-UCLA mesh didn’t make it in. But here they are, Jones a court one blocker at Poly, Muno a court three defender at UCLA, putting together one of the most athletic teams you’ll find in the qualifier. Jones brings a combination of size, physicality, and saucy hands you don’t see much on the women’s side, while Muno brings a fun dose of athleticism and springs that will make this team an entertaining one to watch, and certainly a mis-seeded land mine.