Manhattan Beach Open field topped by Sponcil-Cannon, Brunner-Schalk


There are bigger tournaments with more at stake.

But nothing compares to the Manhattan Beach Open that begins with a qualifier Thursday. 

It concludes with one of the great sporting traditions in America, the winners’ respective victories commemorated in the form of a volleyball-shaped plaque embedded in the nearby Manhattan Beach Pier.

From the AVP itself:

Established in 1960, there is one event that has become synonymous with “iconic”: The AVP Gold Series, Manhattan Beach Open. Reigning as the epicenter of our sport, the granddaddy of them all returns to its throne with the biggest prize purse and Main Draw of the season. This momentous event is unlike any other as its champions will be cemented into the fabled Walk of Fame and into the history of the sport itself. Packed with rising stars and former event champions, this is guaranteed to be an unforgettable event for fans and athletes alike.

And if the history of this unpredictable 2022 AVP season holds form, the titles are completely up for grabs. Truly, this has been a season in which any team can win on any given weekend.

The top seed on the men’s side is the pair of Theo Brunner and Chaim Schalk, who are coming off second-place finishes in Fort Lauderdale and at the Atlanta Open and have one AVP title this summer to their credit, the Hermosa Beach Open.

The No. 2 seed is last year’s MBO champions, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb. But after they won in Fort Lauderdale three weeks ago, they finished ninth in Atlanta.

Trevor Crabb and Tri Bourne come together after winning the 2021 MBO/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

The third seed belongs to Atlanta champions Paul Lotman and Miles Partain. They were first-time AVP winners after finishing third on three previous occasions this season.

The next few seeds are certainly capable of upsetting the bracket. At No. 4 is Troy Field and Chase Budinger. The sixth seed is Team Taylor, Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander, and they’ve been so close, losing in the finals of New Orleans and Hermosa Beach and taking third in Fort Lauderdale.

They’re followed by veteran Casey Patterson, who is playing with David Lee. Patterson won in New Orleans with Phil Dalhausser and finished third with him in Hermosa Beach and in Atlanta. Lee, the three-time USA indoor Olympian, got his first AVP gold in Atlantic City with Cody Caldwell.

Andy Benesh, who has two AVP titles this season, winning with Dalhausser to open the season in Austin and then in Denver with his partner this week, Miles Evans. 

Dalhausser is playing again with his friend John Sutton.

There will be no repeat women’s champion in Manhattan Beach, as April Ross and Alix Klineman are not competing this season, a year after winning gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Another Olympian, Sarah Sponcil, and Terese Cannon are the No. 1 women’s seed. They are coming off a second-place finish in Atlanta. They won Hermosa Beach.

Sarah Sponcil-Terese Cannon
Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon celebrate after winning Hermosa Beach/Rick Atwood photo

The No. 2 seed belongs to Kelley Kolinske and Sara Hughes, a most consistent team that has been close all season. They’ve finished third three times in the last four AVP tournaments, including in Atlanta.

The third seed is Olympian Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint, and they are coming off their best week ever as first-year partners, a huge victory last weekend in the Volleyball World Hamburg Elite 16. They not only won their first international event together, but split $30,000. On the AVP Tour, they won New Orleans in late May and lost in the Hermosa Beach final to Sponcil and Cannon, and have finished third on two occasions.

The No. 4 seed is the Atlanta-winning pair of Geena Urango and Julia Scoles, followed by Canadian Olympian Brandie Wilkerson and Zana Muno and Team TKN, Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss. 

Wilkerson and Muno tied for third in Atlanta. Kloth and Nuss won the season-opener in Austin and lost in the New Orleans final, but have not been higher than fifth since.

Canadian Olympian Sarah Pavan, coming off winning the Commonwealth Games with partner Melissa Humana-Paredes, is the No. 7 seed and is playing with Mackenzie Ponnet. And the No. 8 seed are the Brazilians, Larissa and Lili Maestrini, who have three AVP titles this season (Muskegon, Denver and Atlantic City).

There were qualifying spots for the MBO given at AVP Waupaca, and while most other AVP events this season have separate qualifiers ahead of time, there is also one on site for this event.

The men’s qualifier includes VBM beach editor Travis Mewhirter and partner John-Michael Plummer, Adam Roberts and Marty Lorenz, and Brandon Joyner and Mark Burik.

On the women’s side, the list includes the Nourse twins, Audrey and Nicole, of NCAA-champion USC; USA indoors Olympian Carli Lloyd, who is playing with Rasa DiSalvo; and veterans Karolina Marciniak and Kim Hildreth.

Last year, the MBO was coming on the heels of the Olympics and was the first pro beach event in California played before fans since the start of the pandemic.

The next AVP Tour Series event is the Virginia Beach Open August 26-28, followed by the AVP Gold Series Chicago Open September 2-4.

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