Half of Manhattan Open field seeking second AVP title, half seek first

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Who is going to do it?

An enigmatic question that could be taken one of two ways: Which team will become the first on the AVP Tour to win multiple titles? Or, viewed in another light: Which team will continue this 2022 season of parity and win their first AVP title of the year on Sunday, making it six consecutive Pro and Gold Series events with new champions popping Kona Brews?

For all of the upsets and drama in the early goings of this weekend’s AVP Manhattan Beach Open — Atlanta champs Paul Lotman and Miles Partain getting stunned in the opening round to qualifiers Ric Cervantes and Jonah Seif; Phil Dalhausser going winless; 20th-seeded Kim Hildreth and Kaya Marciniak knocking off the Nos. 14, 12, and 9 seeds; qualifiers Molly Turner and Torrey Van Winden stunning the Nos. 4 and 7 — the semifinals have little to show for it.

Both the men and women’s semifinals are, shockingly, almost a total chalk walk, with top-seeded Chaim Schalk and Theo Brunner winning all four of their matches and second-seeded Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, the defending champions here in Manhattan Beach, doing the same. Not that either route was easy, of course, because this is the AVP in 2022.

Schalk and Brunner fended off what would have been a monumental upset to No. 24 Raffe Paulis and Brian Miller, who had already upended the 9 (Tim Brewster and Kyle Friend) and 8 (Evan Cory and Bill Kolinske). Alas, their run of upsets came to an end at the hands of the Hermosa Beach champs, as Schalk and Brunner won, 21-18, 21-23, 16-14, which preceded a sweep over Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander in the quarterfinals.

Andy Benesh hits past Chase Budinger/Rick Atwood photo

Bourne and Trevor Crabb, meanwhile, required a comeback in the third set of their quarterfinal against Jeremy Casebeer and Billy Allen to ultimately prevail, 21-15, 17-21, 18-16. Allen and Casebeer now have a 10 a.m. Sunday stadium court date with Andy Benesh and Miles Evans, who on Saturday knocked out Jake Landel and Lev Priima, fourth-seeded Chase Budinger and Troy Field, and Miller and Paulis. The winner will play Schalk and Brunner at noon on stadium court.

Meeting Bourne and Crabb in the other semifinal will be the victor of a 10 a.m. bout on court one between Sander and Crabb and Partain and Lotman, whose route to the quarterfinals has been as volatile as any this year.

Beginning with their opening loss to Cervantes and Seif, their nearly barbecued out of the tournament, dropping their next set against Seain Cook and Noah Dyer before rebounding to win the ensuing two sets and their next four matches, leaving in their wake Skylar del Sol and Andrew Dentler, John Hyden and Logan Webber, Avery Drost and Chase Frishman, and Jake Dietrich and Hagen Smith.

There have been no such theatrics needed for the final six women’s teams. Top-seeded Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon, the Hermosa Beach Open champions, and third-seeded Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint, coming off a massive win at the Hamburg Elite 16, have dropped a combined two sets in their eight total matches to the semifinals.

The only team outside of the top six, in fact, is No. 13 Emily Stockman and Megan Kraft, who are on the heels of a nearly two-month international road trip that saw them hit Poland, Switzerland, Portugal, Morocco, and Atlanta. Stockman and Kraft will play Sara Hughes and Kelley Kolinske on stadium at 9 a.m. Both teams are seeking their first AVP titles this year.

On court 1, meanwhile, will be Zana Muno and Brandie Wilkerson and Austin champs Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth.

Of the 12 teams remaining in the field, then, exactly half are seeking their first AVP titles in 2022, and half looking to do what no team has managed to yet this year: Repeat a championship performance.

Sunday’s AVP Manhattan Open will be streamed on the AVP YouTube channel.

Click here for the AVP official brackets, and here for the complete men’s results and schedule, and here for the women’s, courtesy of BVinfo.com.

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Miles Evans goes all out on Manhattan Beach/Rick Atwood photo

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