JUNE 30, 2022, DENVER, CO - It was a little less than 35 years ago when the AVP descended upon Denver for the first time in its nascent history. The actual Association of Volleyball Professionals had only begun two years prior, when a group of disgruntled players, led by Sinjin Smith, Mike Dodd, Tim Hovland, Randy Stoklos, and Karch Kiraly, among others, grew tired of the promoters running their tour in a way they didn’t much like – changing the ball, changing the rules, not being transparent with prize money. So they banded together in a union, dubbed it the AVP, and began running their own events.
In 1987, Denver was added to the schedule – and then it never came back.
Until this weekend, for the fourth stop of the 2022 AVP season and its second at the Tour Series level.
This preview will take on a different form, so as to break up the monotony of the previous ones and to throw a new look at events. If you like it, let us know. If you don’t, also let us know. We’re open to all feedback.
Here’s a glimpse at the AVP Denver Tour Series, by the numbers.
0: Matches lost by Dave Palm and Rafu Rodriguez in Muskegon
Dave Palm and Rafu Rodriguez became partners in a roundabout way, thanks, in part, to an unfortunate injury to Mark Burik. After qualifying for AVP Austin with Palm in Panama City, Burik broke his foot, meaning Palm would need an injury sub for Austin and, likely, beyond. In came Rodriguez. One month later, in Muskegon, they won, doing so by winning six consecutive matches en route to Palm’s first AVP victory. They enter Denver as the 7 seed, earning a crucial first-round bye.
2: The worst finish Jake Dietrich and Hagen Smith have had this year
Thus far in 2022, Jake Dietrich and Hagen Smith have played three tournaments. They’ve won two, in Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach, sealing up a bid to Hermosa in the process. Last weekend, at a CBVA in Santa Barbara, they finished second, falling in the finals to Lev Priima and Jake Landel. It’s an auspicious start to the season. Their fourth tournament comes this weekend in Denver, as the No. 3 seed in the qualifier.
2: Major tournaments won by Nolan Albrecht and Tomas Goldsmith this season
Late Sunday evening, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Nolan Albrecht and Tomas Goldsmith sealed up their second straight victory on the AVP Grass Tour this season, coming from behind to defeat Nate Miller and Ian Capp, 15-11, at the 30th annual Pottstown Rumble. It’s a quick turnaround to Denver, especially as both are playing with different partners: Albrecht is the 15 seed in the qualifier with Kevin Knight, while Goldsmith is the 6 in the qualifier with Bruno Amorim.
6: Big Money events being hosted by Volleyball of the Rockies this year
While it may have been 35 years since the AVP came to Denver, Volleyball of the Rockies (VOTR) has been hosting – and will continue to host – big money events all season long. The Denver Tour Series is one of six big money opportunities VOTR is putting on in 2022. While the $50,000 purse is by far the largest of the season being offered at a Denver-based event, VOTR has five other events this year boasting at least $5,000 in prize money, including tournaments on July 21-24, August 12-14, and August 27-28.
7: Countries Adam Roberts and Cody Caldwell have played in 2022
When I played with Adam Roberts last year, I constantly felt like Robin Williams did in Jumanji, when he initially is called out of the board game and back into real life. A haggard-looking Williams, with a long, unruly beard, and a turtle shell on his back, wonders, after nearly getting hit by a police car, “What year is it?” Such is the nature of playing on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour and traveling from country to country, continent to continent, time zone to time zone. Roberts is, again, hitting the road hard this season, having competed in seven different countries already. He and Caldwell will come into Denver seeded ninth on the backs of consecutive events in Turkey and Poland.
8: The seed of John Sutton and Phil Dalhausser
In the immediate moments after winning AVP New Orleans with Casey Patterson, Phil Dalhausser was asked who we would be playing with at AVP Hermosa.
“John Sutton,” he said with a wry smile, to which much of the unknowing world collectively wondered: “Who is John Sutton?”
It called to mind the famous line from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: “Who is John Galt?”
Sutton is, in short, a 39-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, who is one of the most brilliant businessmen you’ll ever meet in person and a volleyball enthusiast. He has finished as high as third in a tournament this season, at the 2022 Rockstar Season Opener with good friend Adam Roberts. And now he’s playing with one of the greatest to ever play the game in Dalhausser, who has won both AVPs he’s played this season.
12: Players to made their first main draw in Muskegon
Muskegon was everything the Tour Series is meant to be: An opportunity for the lower main draw, upper qualifier level talents to begin breaking through. Seain Cook, TJ Jurko, Dylan Zacca, Brandon Joyner, Tim Brewster, Brad Connors, Brett Greiner, Nolan Albrecht, Mark Bucknam, Jake Fleming, Frank Field and Tyler Penberthy all made their main draw debuts in Muskegon.
How many will do the same in Denver? Already, at least one, John Sutton, is guaranteed for Denver.
73: Total entries on the men’s side
The Denver entry list began to resemble more of what you might see in Manhattan Beach, with 73 teams signing up. Only 64 are able to actually compete, due to space limitations, but still: That’s a huge number for a Tour Series event outside of California, and 20 more than were originally registered for Muskegon. The highest seed to qualify in Muskegon was Frank Field and Tyler Penberthy, who were 15th in the qualifier.
Denver’s looking even deeper.
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew