St. Pete AVP Men’s Qualifier Breakdown
First, I appolgize for not posting anything on the women, I printed their bracket the night before, and then they had a team drop and I was unorganized and couldn’t keep up. Only one team held their seed on the Women’s side, upsets abound!
50 teams showed up on the Men’s side of the Qualifier to compete for 4 main draw opportunities. After a long hot day on the beautiful Clearwater Beach sand, 4 well deserved teams stood above the rest. Being the 1st tournament of the year, seeding played a huge factor in teams draws, forcing tough matches a round or two earlier than the teams deserved. I am going to breakdown each Qualifying team’s path to the main draw. Also check out the pics that I’m going to try and load.
Number 1 seeded team of Avery Drost and Ty Tramblie were actually the 1st team I saw as they were getting out of a cab around 7:30, having a 1st round bye meant they were about 3 hours early for their first match. I got a chance to talk to Avery Drost and their Coach Gary a bit, and I can tell you Avery was ready to get to work at 8am like a fighter waiting for his name to be called backstage. Their first match was a bit quicker than I expected, against a higher than average Florida team, Joey Cash and Roger Corbitt, Ty and Avery put the pressure on with their serves from the 1st point and never let up. Avery had some nice big blocks while Ty patrolled the back, making tough digs look routine. The top seeds took it in 2 sets.
Their next match had them go up against another highly regarded (and under-seeded) JD Christie and Tyler Lesneski. This one turned into a great match, Ty and Avery looked like they were going to get off the sand quickly taking the 1st set 2-14. Starting the 2nd set, they got a point or two up and held that advantage until about the 16-14 mark, and then Tyler and JD with help from the pro Florida crowd turned it on. JD, a huge specimen (built like Austin Rester, with maybe a higher vert.) started making his presence felt at the net, and after a tight hands call on Avery the Florida team took the lead 17-16. Tyler and JD sided out well and took the 2nd set forcing the 3rd set. Teams traded sideouts with the crowd pouring their mouths out trying to will the upset. Ty and Avery taking the 13-12 side change, JD and Tyler tied it up at 13s, followed by Ty and Avery getting the first chance at match point with Ty serving up 14-13 right in front of the loudest hecklers, Ty put the jump serve in play and saw his partner end the match with a HUGE block.
In their play in match, they faced a very competent team of Dan Buehring and Mike McCarthy. First time seeing Mike play beach, but the 6’8 ish player showed off some serious skill teamed with the solid DB. Seeded 24, they had to pull an upset against the 9 seeded team of Irons/Lucas. This turned out to be a bad draw for the 9 seeded team, in the 2nd round. These teams were spitting images of each other, and was one of the better matches all day, with DB and Mike moving on to the play in match. Buehring and McCarthy with one extra match under their belts than their opponents, were ready to battle. Ty and Avery got hot quick, and it looked like the long day was starting to wear on Chicago team. Falling in the 1st set 21-13. Second set saw the same hot start from Ty and Avery, however in the teens, DB and Mike caught a second wind and tightened the set up causing Drost and Tramblie to dig deep and step on the gas. The number one seeds earned their main draw ticket by finishing the 2nd set off at 21-18. Being the top seed in the Q, I think getting in is more about relief than accomplishment and that relief showed as Ty and Avery walked off the court. This was the only play in game to end 2-0.
The next group we are going to talk about was the group of death featuring the 2 seed Kolinski & Mesko, 7 seed Cabbage and Toppel as well as 10 seed Moran and Steve VanZwieten. None of those teams got out. The team making it to the main draw featured one of the most watched qualifiers of all time, he goes by the name of Dana Camacho. Dana brought a new player to the scene grabbing mid-westerner Kyle Radde, making his AVP Q debut. Kyle is an explosive net player, and I could see him getting better and better every match. Picking up the match up of #7 seed of Cabbage/Toppel vs Camacho/Radde, even before the 1st serve Dana made an impact in the game by not shaking hands under the next pre-game, which did not sit well with Curt Toppel. Moving to the match, Cabbage & Toppel never really found their grove and couldn’t break Kyle’s net play or the serving pressure both Dana and Kyle put on them. Camacho/Radde moved on in a 2-0 upset of the 7 seed. Next up was the team of John Moran and Steve VanZwieten. This one was very entertaining, as Moran/VZ took the 1st set causing Dana to go into the I don’t care routine half way through and put his partner on the silent treatment losing 15-21. Second set was different from the get go, Dana got the skyball working and 1 guy in the crowd went on a solo heckling act seeming to affect Moran. Radde responded to Dana silent treatment, not only raising his play at the net, but improved his transition setting. If you’ve seen Dana play, Dana likes a little shoot 2ball set which isn’t the easiest to do consistantly. Dana and Kyle pulled away in the 2nd set 21-13, though this set featured a medical time out by Dana, who went and smoked it seemed like 4 cigarettes. Going into the 3rd Dana and Kyle maintained their momentum and got a crucial hands call on Moran. Comacho and Radde found themselves looking at a 13-11 lead after getting a warning for receiving “coaching” from a loud supporter under the threat of losing points. Then the match ended quickly. Radde block, 14-11 bad set by Moran for the match.
Meanwhile on the other side of this group, 2 seeds were rolling in their first 2 matches in straight sets. In their 3rd round match they got a very game Billy Chenoweth and Q veteran Justin Phipps. Kolinski and Mesko though handled their business 21-18,21-18 setting up the playing match against Comacho/Radde.
This match came down to the 3rd set, as each team split the first 2 by more than 5 each. The 3rd set saw Camacho and Radde really put the pressure again on a team with their serving. Radde was also making his presence felt at the net against Kolinski and Mesko, getting multiple touches and blocks while still being un-friended by Dana. Dana needed another “medical timeout”, being pressured by the Refs for the injury, I believe I heard Dana say it was his ass. Dana won his smoke break up a couple, I think it they were up on the 2 seeds 11-9. Promply came out and missed his serve. Radde sided out and I believe never gave up serve. Comacho/Radde into the Main event knocking off the 2 seeds in 3.
The section of the Q featuring the 3rd seeded team of Crabb/VanderWerp and 6 seed Hilling/Maghy. These tops seeds held until the the play in match, only early pressure either team faced was Crabb and Stevo being pushed by a good looking 20 year old in Dillon Maarek and his veteran partner Dan Newman going 21-17, 22-20 to set up the match against Hilling/Maghy.
This match to get in was the last to finish and also went 4, I mean 3. I say 4 because the first set was epic. 6 seeded Matt & Mike got out early to a 2 point advantage and were able to hold out to it until around 17s where Trevor Crabb stepped up and got 2 timely blocks. Stevo and Trevor looked like they were going to poach this game at the last second, getting the 1st crack at set point. However not to be. The 3 seeds held the advantage until around 25-25, when I think Mike dialed up a hubby/wife ace. Back and fourth for a few points, seeing Matt get a touch on a ball and take a tough over the should swing for the set was only the real chance to end it in the 20s… 13 or so points later Mike and Matt managed to outlast the 3rd seeds and take it 39-37!!
After the 1 set, I was interested on how each team would respond, this match started while the sun was still in its apex, keeping the temp at 90 degrees. Well, both teams answered the bell in the 2nd set, going back and forth, with big plays being made by all. Both Hilling and Crabb were big influences at the net, was really impressed by both these very young players. Crabb reminds me a bit of Tri Bourne, same body type, maybe a hair less explosive. Thin hair.
The 3rd set you could really tell the long match was having its effect on all players, especially the bigs. Crabb and Stevo slowly started pulling away and with each play I could see the life and energy being sucked from Matt Hilling. The match ended 15-11 in favor of the 3 seeds with players collapsing on the court. Recovery time for Crabb/VanderWerp.
The last section of the Qualifier featured the 4 seeded team of Bomgren/Bomgren, 5th seeds Bates/Burik and some tough other teams that I thought the seeding was really rough on. The Bomgren brothers moved effortlessly to the play in match, never letting a team score more than 12 in any set. On the other side, I thought was the toughest run of teams before the matches started. Hudson Bates and Mark Burik had to start their day off with a tough team for a 37 seed of Irizarry & Ramirez. Before the Qualifier I was wondering how much Hudson was playing, he answered that question loudly. This match started off close, then a tight call on a ball landing on or not on the line seemed to rattle Irizarry/Ramirez, they followed that up with a bad hand set, and the wheels fell off from there. The 5 seeds took the 1st set 21-14. That was enough to get Mark and Hudson settled in, they were able to take the 2nd set and match 21-18. This moved them on to face Shane Donohue and Kris Fraser, this was a fun match as Shane and Kris are both explosive, hard swinging players. The match lived up to expectations in this battle of East Coast players. Bates and Burik however, held their seed and again dismissed their opponents 21-14, 21-18 to set up the #4 vs. #5 match to get in.
These seeds lived up to their billing, this was the first time I’ve been able to see the Bromgrens play. They were a fun team to watch, fundamentally sound and dynamic in their own right. In the 1st set, the teams went back and forth, neither team stretching out any big lead. Bates and Burik had a game plan coming in, Serve tough and make Brian side out. Brian was a stud, and lead his side to the win 22-20. Bates who had been owning the net hadn’t really made an impact yet. That changed in the 2nd and 3rd sets. Midway through the second set, it appeared Brian was beginning to tire, as some of his swings started to tape and Hudson started getting his hands on what seemed like everything. Mark also managed a few dynamic plays in the backfield and the #5 seeds tied up the match 1 set apiece taking the 2nd set 21-15. The 3rd set saw Mark and Hudson get out to an early lead and then fight off a late push to seal their entrance into the main draw with a 15-12 3 set victory. Hudson pushed through this set as he was clearly gassed, but refused to give in, he continued to jump serve and hustle to the net getting a few key blocks. This was a well earned bid.
This was a great turnout, I got to see some teams who didn’t make it in who will have future chances to. Number 1 on this list was Bruehring and McCarthy. McCarthy is a good moving big guy at 6’8 ish who was comfortable playing behind the block, as he and DB split the blocking duties. Boag and Kohler got upset by a very good, but not great Florida team of Jack Mitchell and Jeff Solar I missed this match I wish I hadn’t. I didn’t get to see this California team play much. Kolinski looked much more dynamic last year in the Main draw, didn’t see anything wrong, just looked a bit different. Really impressed with Matt Hilling, I hope his knee holds up. I got to talk to Steve VanderWerp’s father Scott for a bit, he was able to fill me in on some things, Stevo is full time out in Cal now, practicing at Hermosa Beach with a high quality group of players. Scott was also able to fill in some blanks I had on all the mid-west players, who made great impression in Clearwater. Seeding was jacked, some teams played Florida AA teams in the 2nd round, some played other Open/AAA teams in the 1st. It’s hard for the AVP, as they have to stick to a “seeding system” which doesn’t take in account for local teams such as Christie/Lesneski who don’t play many qualifiers.
Thanks for reading, onto the main draw!