Delaney Knudsen would like you to know that it was not the No. 1 team in the world she and Jessica Sykora beat on Thursday evening in the AVP New York qualifier. Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes are, in fact, the No. 8.
Knudsen’s dad joked that it wasn’t nearly as cool.
And if nothing else sums up the madness that has been Thursday and Friday at AVP New York, that sentiment may be it: The most seismic of upsets, to some, wasn’t really all that cool at all.
This week, it’s just kinda the norm.
For just a few hours later there were Aurora Davis and Bree Scarbrough, that plucky team out of the qualifier, who went three sets in all three qualifying matches, woke up the next morning and toppled No. 4 Emily Day and Betsi Flint in straight sets. This came barely a month after being blitzed off the court in Huntington Beach by the very same team in the very same round.
But perhaps that upset wasn’t enough to satiate the appetite, either. Let’s check on Janelle Allen and Angela Bensend. There they went, taking down No. 7 Caitlin Ledoux and Maria Clara Salgado, semifinalists in Hermosa Beach in 2017. A couple hours later, on stadium court against No. 2 Kelly Claes and Brittany Hochevar, they battled back from a 20-18 score freeze and pushed four straight, extending it to three sets.
Let’s take a look at the men.
Ah, there’s Chase Frishman and Avery Drost, who were precariously close to slipping into the qualifier, diving and scrambling and grinding it out over Casey Patterson and Stafford Slick. And there they were again, extending a thriller against Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb to three sets. They lost, sure, but not without providing excellent entertainment, as did Chaim Schalk and Ricardo Santos and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.
And is it not the mere possibility, the tantalizingly close potential, of an upset happening that makes sports all the more wonderful? Especially when it’s the last match of the day. Stadium court. A rematch of the upset of the tournament a year prior, when Schalk and Santos, Olympians both, muscled through the qualifier and stunned Dalhausser and Lucena in the first round.
At the outset, it appeared as if that may have been the case again, with Schalk and Santos stealing the first set, only for Dalhausser and Lucena to do what they do best: turn it up, then turn it up some more, until the final two sets were a combined 12 points in their favor.
So the major upset was left for Knudsen and Sykora in the qualifier, though Myles Muagututia and Kyle Friend, who played eight sets in the qualifier, produced a mighty one of their own in the main draw. Down went Eric Zaun, the 2017 Rookie of the Year, and Tim Bomgren, a finalist just two weeks ago in Austin, in three sets.
One qualifier team jumps to a single-digit finish.
A top-five hopeful goes down in two.
Such is volleyball.
Such is AVP New York.
Perhaps that’s why Knudsen’s father was so teasingly unimpressed. In a tournament full of upsets and surprises and intriguing three-setters, maybe the only one to turn an eye anymore is if the true No. 1 goes down.
Dalhausser and Lucena?
They’ve exorcised whatever demons may have been left from a year ago. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t a thrill to watch them do so.
Sometimes, when the best in the world are still the best in the world, well that’s pretty cool, too.