All the waiting and wishing and hoping and thinking and praying is almost over. Fans will soon watch and sparsely “pack” the stands at a safe distance to root on their favorite beach volleyball players. We’re so close to life being normal again, but of course, it’s not going at lightning speed.
In a two-part Instagram post earlier this week, Mark Schuermann and the gang announced the return of the AVP. Three Gold Series events in three different cities – Atlanta, Manhattan Beach, and Chicago. Set to take place after the Olympic Games in Tokyo, all three tournaments will feature the full AVP roster. AVP’s eleven Olympic beach volleyball players (and potential Medalists) are heading straight from Tokyo to Georgia (talk about culture shock). Who knows – with five Olympic teams on the AVP, we may see a Tokyo rematch in all three cities!
The schedule includes fewer events than usual. There are many reasons for this, chiefly that Covid-19 remains unpredictable and the Olympic Qualification Period and Games are occupying the first part of the summer. I assure you – the AVP Staff tirelessly toiled for our Tour. Permits, city officials, sanitation procedures, travel arrangements, schedule conflicts, market testing, and Covid-19 precautions are just the tip of the iceberg. The 2021 season is a testament to the resilience and durability of the AVP.
More details on the events – such as fan attendance, ticketing, Qualifier cap, and draw size – will be announced in the coming weeks. So if you’re here for more information on future tournaments, you’re going to have to do a little more waiting. For now, let’s briefly visit each city and hear a little from the athletes.
It’s fitting that the first travel tourney of the post-Covid AVP Tour will take place in the same place that hosted the first Olympic beach volleyball appearance. In our 1996 debut, the USA Men dominated the show, winning Gold and Silver. Twenty-five years later, as the first event after Tokyo, it’ll be interesting to see how the results of the Games factor into the vibe of the Atlanta AVP. Will the Americans return with more hardware? Or maybe some of our Canadian AVP studs. With only four days between the Closing Ceremonies in Japan and the first serve of Atlanta, the returning athletes could either come in with Olympic afterglow or major jetlag. Or a little of both.
The AVP hasn’t been to Atlanta since 2009, so most current players have never competed there. AVP Pro Corinne Quiggle says, “I’m excited about the new Atlanta stop because East Coast volleyball is growing so fast. It’ll be fun to be in a new city while also bringing more beach volleyball to the East Coast closer to some of my friends and family in Atlanta and Florida. I’m also really thankful that the AVP has worked to get us a schedule this year; that must have been really hard.”
Of course, we had to make MBO happen even though California regulations are some of the strictest in the country. The Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball, typically held during this same weekend every year, takes place in the backyard of more than half of the AVP.
With the prestige that comes with being an MBO champ and having your name solidified on MB Pier’s Volleyball Walk of Fame, the reigning champions will be returning to repeat their glory. Canadians Sarah and Mel currently hold the title, but the Americans are anxious to win it back. And though Men’s current champs Trevor Crabb and Reid Priddy likely won’t play together, they’ll be seeking a repeat with different partners. I really hope they play each other in an elimination round, both fighting for a repeat. Or a Crabb Boil! Taylor has never won the MBO, so that would be extra juicy.
Speaking of Taylor Crabb, he says of the schedule announcement, “I’m so excited the AVP is back. We wish it were more than just three tournaments, but I’m thankful for all the hard work the AVP had to do to make this happen. And the best part about it all – fans!”
September 3-5 (aka Labor Day Weekend)
As always, the AVP will be in the Windy City to close out the Gold Series. Oak Street Beach, the site of the AVP Championships of years past, will serve as the closer on the series and on the summer. Chicago is personally my favorite stop; I went to college inside the Loop and grew up just a few hours away in Indianapolis. I’m crossing my fingers for big fan numbers on this one so my parents and grandpa can come.
Chicago has many claims to fame, but one volleyball piece of history is that Oak Street Beach hosted the youngest team (Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes) and the oldest player (John Hyden) to win an AVP. And both happened in 2017!
And there we have it. Though we all wish for more volley, the athletes I’ve talked to are incredibly grateful for these three events. Sarah Sponcil, who’ll be jetting straight from Tokyo to Atlanta, says, “I was absolutely stoked to see the AVP come out with three great events. And the best part is there will be fans! We athletes love having fans there as much as they love being there. It’s been close to two years, so I know I’m not the only one who’s ready to play in front of our friends, families, and fans again. So exciting!”
Troy Field says, “It’s been such a tough pandemic for everyone, especially sports. So I’m really thankful for all the hard work the AVP did to create these three events. I can’t wait to have the fans back in the stands. Especially at the new tour stop for me in Atlanta, Georgia. The wait is over – time to bring that energy you’ve been saving for over a year! See you on the sand!”