It was mid-May and somewhere around 2 p.m. in Austin, Texas, which is another way of saying that it was hot. Really hot.

The type of dry heat in which you can see the little heat waves rising off the ground. Jeff Conover stood by the qualifier bracket, sweating through a gray AVP polo. The qualifier was running behind. Way behind, perhaps an unanticipated consequence of the newly implemented freeze rule, which was just in its third tournament as a rule.

He sighed.

The qualifier began at 8 a.m.

There were still four rounds to go.

This was Austin of 2017. Sixty-six mens teams signed up for the qualifier, every match of which would be played at the main site, while the women were moved off-site. Every team had to play at least four matches, some, should they have made it through, would have played five.

Conover mentioned that this was borderline unsafe, to ask a team to play four, maybe five, matches, potentially 15 sets of volleyball in heat that verged on triple-digits, and then ask them to wake up first thing the next morning and do it again.

Something had to change. The AVP could either expand the main draw, which would require either an influx of prize money or a dilution of it, or it could cap the qualifiers.

They went, justifiably and likely wisely, for the latter.

You will notice that the qualifier for Austin of 2018 was capped at 64 teams, and New York to 40. Maybe you wondered why.

Facilities without natural beaches have limited real estate. Sites like Austin, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago will not have the net availability that Hermosa, Huntington, and Manhattan do. A qualifier can only move so fast. Without lights, there’s no chance a 64-team qualifier could be finished in New York.

That, and as Conover mentioned: It’s borderline cruel and unusual punishment to demand an athlete play for upwards of 10 hours in suffocating heat, jumping half a thousand times, and then wake up the next morning and be expected to compete against the best in the country.

Capping the qualifier solves all of those problems while introducing a potential additional benefit: The AVP Next tournaments should see an influx in participation.

If you want to play in qualifiers, and you need points, the only avenue through which to do so will be through AVP Nexts. In capping the qualifiers, the AVP is producing a trickle-up effect, with players – for the most part – first needing to cut their teeth on the first rung of the ladder before they can advance to the next, which in this case is now the qualifiers.

It’s not a perfect system but it’s a better system than requiring players to play five matches prior to a main draw with less than 10 hours of rest.

Onto the preview for AVP New York, which you can find at!