One seeds dominate Huntington; Brazil goes full Brazil in Brazil

Good morning Beach Volleyball Fans,

And happy … Monday? Yes, we’ve moved the Beach Volleyball Digest to Monday, at the behest of Tom Feuer, who properly assessed that if we were to run our weekly roundup on Mondays, we’d have a whole lot more to include.

And boy, do we.

This weekend was a wild one, with Brazil going full Brazil in Brazil, Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng snatching souls in the debut of their reunion tour in Huntington Beach, and the Taylors looking very much like the team we expected them to be when they partnered up earlier this year.

Before we head out of the country, we’ll start local, at Beach Blvd. in Huntington Beach.

Taylor Crabb, left, and Taylor Sander win AVP Huntington Beach/Mark Rigney photo

All bow down to the No. 1 seeds

This past weekend, the AVP returned to Huntington Beach — one of my favorite stops on Tour, and one of the more underrated beaches out there — for the first time since 2019. Once the annual season-opening event, it’s been put on the bench due, according to the AVP, to COVID reasons. It was fantastic to have professional beach volleyball back in Huntington, and it was especially fantastic to have it back in Huntington if you were the one seed.

Those were Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes, back together again for the first time since 2017, and Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander. Cheng and Hughes, who are considered by us at SANDCAST as the top American prospective team to qualify for the Paris Olympics, looked even better than the hype machine touted them to be, which was considerable.

Kelly Cheng, left, and Sara Hughes win AVP Huntington Beach/Mark Rigney photo

They didn’t just beat teams; they snatched their souls and tossed them into the Pacific. Only two of the 10 sets they played this weekend came closer than 21-15, and the final set of the weekend, against Katie Horton and Brook Bauer, was 21-7. A fitting finale to a dominant debut for the Cheng and Hughes (insert new team name here).

Crabb and Sander, meanwhile, put on a demolition derby of their own, dropping just a single set, to Logan Webber and Seain Cook, en route to their second straight AVP win. They polished off Avery Drost and Chase Frishman in the finals, 21-17, 21-14.

Other notes from AVP Huntington Beach

  • Molly Turner picks up a new partner … and keeps on winning. In her debut with Kaitlyn Malaney, Turner has now played with five different partners this season — Jessica Gaffney, Maddie Anderson, Torrey Van Winden, Carly Skjodt — and has had notable success with all of them. Her and Malaney took third in Huntington. She’ll be back with Malaney in Central Florida in December.
  • Carly Wopat, teaming with Megan Rice, had the best AVP finish of her career in Huntington, finishing fifth and sealing up a spot in the Central Florida Pro Series in early December. She took some time off to become a firefighter, and is now back on the beach, looking quite impressive.
  • Speaking of Central Florida, the trickle-down for who got the bids from Huntington went all the way down to NINTH for the men, the biggest trickle I’ve seen in a Tour Series. The two bids went to Lev Priima and Noah Dyer in seventh, and, hilariously, Raffe Paulis and Brian Miller, in ninth. Sheesh.
  • For the women, it went even further — to 13th! Iya Lindahl and Tiffany Creamer somehow locked up a main draw spot in Central Florida with a 13th in Huntington Beach. Megan Gebhard and Chelsea Rice claimed the other main draw bid with a ninth.
  • JM Plummer and I had a battle with Tim Bomgren and Piotr Marciniak in the second round, which you can watch on the SANDCAST YouTube page. I’ll also drop our matches against Tim Brewster and Kyle Friend (maybe the highest-level volleyball match I’ve been a part of in my career), Tyler Penberthy and Carlos Jimenez, Evan Cory and Paul Lotman, and our absolute pistol-whipping against Avery Drost and Chase Frishman.

Next, and last, on the AVP schedule will be the Central Florida Open.

George Wanderley-Pedro Salgado-Arthur Mariano-beach volleyball
George Wanderley and Pedro Salgado hug, while Arthur Mariano salutes the crowd after a brilliant final in Uberlandia/Volleyball World photo

A Brazilian heavy podium in Brazil

If you were paying more attention to the Uberlandia Elite 16 than the Huntington Tour Series this weekend, I can’t blame you. Some of the best matches of the entire Beach Pro Tour season took place in Brazil, and if you happened to miss Andre and George upsetting Anders Mol and Christian Sorum in the semifinals, or Andre and George winning a marathon gold medal match over King Arthur Mariano and the Ageless Pedro Salgado…or Mol and Sorum winning bronze in three over Vitor Felipe and Renato Lima, well, do yourself a favor and carve out some time to watch all of them. They’re well worth your time.

Notes from Uberlandia:

  • As dominant as Mol and Sorum have been these past four years, nobody plays better beach volleyball in Brazil than Andre and George. They’ve now won three straight Beach Pro Tour events in Brazil, dating back to the Itapema Four-Star in the fall of 2021. They won in Itapema earlier this year, and claimed gold yet again in Uberlandia. They are now No. 3 in the world, behind Mol and Sorum and Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen.
  • The women’s field, which featured NINE Brazilian teams, went how you would probably expect: An all-Brazil podium, with World Champs Duda and Ana Patricia claiming gold, Andressa Cavalcanti and Vitoria De Souza silver, and Barbara and Carol bronze. Americans Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon, following their silver medal from Cape Town, took fifth, while Megan Kraft and Emily Stockman finished ninth.

Next up on the Beach Pro Tour are back-to-back events in Torquay — pronounced Tor-key — Australia.

Travis Mewhirter-Delaney Mewhirter
Travis and Delaney Mewhirter celebrate announcing Delaney’s pregnancy/Lindsey Knudsen photo

Other news on the beach

  • In NORCECA Adventureland in the Cayman Islands, Jake Urrutia and Ian Satterfield, and Teegan Van Gunst and Katie Lindstrom won gold medals. Cayman marks the final regular season stop, so to speak, on the NORCECA Tour this year, with the ever-tenuous Continental Championships allegedly happening sometime between now and New Year’s. We’ll see.
  • My favorite beach volleyball player in the world is going to stop playing beach volleyball for a bit, because DELANEY IS PREGNANT! That’s right: We’ve got our first kiddo coming in April. At our last ultrasound, we double-checked to make sure he or she — we won’t be finding out the sex until the kid pops out of the oven — is hand-setting only. #NeverBumpSet.

That’s all for now, folks. Happy Monday. Happy Fall.

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