With one, final Jeremy Casebeer – or Uncle Jer Bear, as he was known at Lake Sammamish – swing in Seattle, the AVP officially reached the midpoint of the 2019 season. It has, by any measure, been a rollicking success. Every event has been home to packed stadiums and sold out VIP areas and flowing beer gardens.
Most importantly, it’s been home to excellent beach volleyball.
Upsets have become the norm this season, a sign that the field, on both the men’s and the women’s side, is deepening. Qualifier teams have upset the one seed in the men and the women. Three different teams have won a men’s title and three different have won a women’s title. Two of those victors on the women’s end – Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman – have been new winners, while one, Uncle Jer Bear and Chaim Schalk, has been a first-timer for the men.
It’s made for a fun season to watch for fans, one in which new faces are emerging, older ones are being pushed, and people are coming out in droves to see it.
On SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, the hosts break down the mid-season AVP awards.
Men’s: Taylor Crabb
Few have ever looked so indifferent when being introduced in an AVP final. Yet there Taylor Crabb sits, legs crossed, paying attention to seemingly everything but his name being called to play an AVP final. Such is the state of mind when you expect to be there, and it’s easy to see why Crabb does, indeed, expect to be there. Crabb and Gibb won the first two events of the season, in Huntington Beach and Austin, making it three straight when dating it back to Chicago of 2018. In the past two seasons, they’ve made eight finals in 10 events, not including the Hawai’i Invitational. Much of this is due, yes, to Gibb, but Crabb is playing at a level unmatchedon the AVP this season.
In the running: Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, Jake Gibb, Jeremy Casebeer
Women’s: April Ross
In discussing Ross, Bourne wondered when the last time the 37-year-old wasn’t only the best player in the country, but in the world. She has played two AVPs this season and won both. Her and Alix Klineman have played six FIVBs and won two. As with Crabb, much of the credit goes to Klineman’s 6-foot-4 presence at the net, but Ross is the engine, fueled by a serve that has earned her FIVB’s Best Server five times since 2013, and an all-around game that has awarded her four AVP MVP’s since the same year.
In the running: Alix Kineman, Sarah Sponcil, Betsi Flint, Emily Day
Rookie of the Year
Men’s: Paul Lotman
Of the many skills, both tangible and not, you cannot teach in beach volleyball, one is this: Being an Olympian. Lotman has that distinction, and it’s beginning to show, as his indoor game translates to the beach. A year ago, Lotman showed glimpses of his beach potential in a titanic serve and the physicality that earned him a spot on the 2012 Olympic team. But there were a few skills that needed grooming.
Consider them groomed.
Lotman and Gabe Ospina have qualified for three straight events, all small draws, and became just the second 16-seed to beat a one in AVP history, topping Gibb and Crabb in Austin. They don’t seem to be slowing, either. Now, with enough points to likely get them straight into Hermosa and Manhattan, they won’t have qualifier legs, but fresh ones prepared to make a move deeper into main.
In the running: Gabe Ospina, Kyle Friend, David Lee
Women’s: Terese Cannon
Truth be told, I don’t know whether Cannon is still, technically, considered a rookie, because she’s made a handful of main draws prior to this season. But if she’s eligible, Cannon has a runaway case for Rookie of the Year. She took third in Austin – she skipped Huntington Beach for NCAA Championships – to begin the year and has taken a ninth and seventh since. Her and Irene Pollock have enough points where they’ll be in main draw for the remainder of the year, making Cannon the early, and heavy, favorite to win.
In the running: Kim Hildreth, Sarah Schermerhorn, Falyn Fonoimoana, Emily Hartong
Men’s: Troy Field
Field’s rise on the AVP, both as a player and personality, has been meteoric. He has gone, in the span of two years, as that qualifier guy wearing a pink hat who could jump really high to a bona fide contender to winning AVPs. In four events this season, he and Tim Bomgren have made three Sundays, including a final, Field’s first, in New York City. With Hermosa and Manhattan expected to be a tad watered down, with teams skipping for Olympic qualifiers, odds are that Field and Bomgren will be back in the finals soon enough.
In the running: Tim Bomgren, Chase Budinger, Jeremy Casebeer, Chaim Schalk
Women’s: Jace Pardon
A few weeks prior to Huntington Beach, Pardon wasn’t sure who she was going to play with. She had popped around with a few different partners in 2018, never really finding a consistent rhythm with any, one player. Then Karissa Cook freed up, and the rest, you could say, is history in the making.
They took a fifth in Huntington, and then worked their way through the contender’s bracket in Austin to claim their first AVP titles. Far from one-hit wonders, they made another quarterfinal in New York and then a second Sunday in Seattle.
In the running: Karissa Cook, Emily Stockman, Sarah Sponcil, Irene Pollock