New partnerships highlight Young Guns

p1440 Young Guns to feature more than a dozen new partnerships

Carly Wopat

To peruse the list of entrants for the p1440 Young Guns event in Huntington Beach next weekend is to peruse a manifest of what could be. Of the 24 teams competing, there are just four Americans – McKenna Thibodeau-Madison Willis, Delaney Knudsen-Jessica Sykora, Sarah Schermerhorn-Kim Hildreth, Alexa Strange-Emily Hartong — who have played multiple professional (p1440, AVP, FIVB, NVL, NORCECA) events together.

The rest are a mixed bag of partnerships formed for a garden variety of reasons. Some, like Molly Turner and Falyn Fonoimoana, are riding momentum from a successful event. In September, the two won gold in a NORCECA in Punta Cana, upsetting Canadian twins Nicole and Megan McNamara in the finals.

“When we played in the NORCECA it was a last-minute pair-up so we didn’t have much time to make that comfortability and trust on the court,” said Turner, who also finished seventh in AVP Hermosa with Cassie House out of the qualifier earlier in the year. “We definitely have high hopes for Huntington but all in all we are just excited to compete again in 2018. We thought our season was over, so having this opportunity to compete side by side again is more than we could ask for.”

Jessica Gaffney and Agnieszka Pregowska, too, are riding the momentum of a single successful event. They made their partnership debut in p1440 San Jose, recovering from a second-round loss to Geena Urango and Caitlin Ledoux by winning four straight matches, including an 18-21, 21-14, 15-11 upset over Olympians Nicole Branagh and Lauren Fendrick to make the quarterfinals, where they fell to Anouk Verge-Depre and Kerri Walsh Jennings.

Likewise, Avery Bush and Traci Callahan are on their second event, looking to improve upon a 17th in San Jose. Veterans Irene Pollock and Kim DiCello, back after maternity leave, are playing their second event of the 2019 season together, following a top-10 finish in a 3-star in Chetumal in late October.

But those partnerships, by comparison to the rest of the field, are well developed in their chemistry. The vast majority are either test events or simply fun events, a debut for most. Some are trying out a potential long-term partnership, others partnering because it’s the end of season and why the heck not?

“I’m really looking forward to playing the last tournament of the season,” said Corinne Quiggle, who is playing her first event with Carly Wopat. “Playing with Carly is super exciting because she is new, coming from indoor to the beach but has just loads of potential and as a new pair we haven’t explored and been tested like this tournament will.

“She is a beast and a competitor and I’m really looking forward to battling it out with her in Huntington.”

Other partnership debuts on the American side are Sheila Shaw-Mackenzie Ponnet, Cassie House-Tory Paranagua, Elise Zappia-Jenna Blocksom, Katie Spieler-Allie Wheeler, Megan Rice-Sarah Harper, Rachel Laquaniello-Jessica Wilson, Stacey Smith-Camie Manwill, and Kristen Petrasic-Chelsea Ross.

“I’m super excited to play with Allie Wheeler, she’s such a scrappy and hard working athlete and I’ve always had intense battles against her, so it’ll be fun to battle together,” said Spieler, who played the 2018 season alongside Karissa Cook. “We are stoked for another chance to compete in 2018!”