JUNE 21, 2022, MUSKEGON, MI – The plan was to win two matches and qualify for the AVP Tour Series main draw in Muskegon, Michigan. The plan was to remain in Michigan throughout the weekend, playing deep into the tournament. 

The plan was also flexible. 

The first bit of that plan went smoothly enough, as Jon Mesko and Kacey Losik won their first match of the Muskegon qualifier. And then things got interesting. In the second and final round, Mesko and Losik fell to Floridians Dylan Zacca and TJ Jurko 21-15, 20-22, 20-22, in one of the wildest matches of the entire weekend.

To most, it would seem that their hopes of a main draw had been snuffed. The weekend, however, was just getting started.

Mesko and Losik weren’t going to sit around and watch the rest of the tournament play out that weekend. Oh, no. 

They were heading to Virginia Beach.

When the AVP announced its new structure, with three tiers of tournaments – Gold, Pro, and Tour Series – it left out an additional tier, for the semipro players around the country: The Big Money Tour. In addition to the 16 stops on the AVP, the Big Money Tour, run and operated by AVPAmerica promoters, offers 27 more tournaments, all with a minimum of $5,000 in prize money, some with the additional carrot of an AVP main draw on the line.

Such was the case last weekend when Mesko and Losik bought last-minute flights out of Grand Rapids to Virginia Beach, home to a Big Money Tour event being hosted by the Tidewater Volleyball Association. Not only was there a $5,000 purse to be won but also a main draw berth into the Tour Series stop later this summer in Virginia Beach.

“It was pretty last second,” Mesko said of the trip further down the East Coast. “I almost think I jinxed myself because I saw it in an email on the flight the day before: There’s a wild card tournament in Virginia this weekend. The seed was planted in my mind.”

It wouldn’t be until 2 in the morning that Mesko and Losik landed in Virginia Beach. No matter: The two finished first out of the field of 28 teams, beating Andrew Holman and Adam Hartmann in a wet and windy finals in which the weather was so severe they had to move the event indoors. Not only did Mesko and Losik split a $1,200 check for the weekend, alongside Meredith Rosenberger and Gabriella Bramante, they also earned a main draw berth into an AVP event – even if it was a different one than they were initially after.

“I took a dip in the fresh water, it was amazing. I said ‘I don’t want to stick around here all weekend. Let’s channel this energy we have that we should have won that match and go win Virginia Beach,’” Mesko said. “It’s hard to say you’re going to win a tournament and then go do it.”

Such is the beauty of the Big Money Tour: There is almost always an event to play, somewhere in the country, for a decent bit of prize money and sometimes a coveted main draw. Six of the events on the Big Money Tour schedule are in Florida, kudos to SSOVA, the Panama Jack Summer Slam, and East End Volleyball. Volleyball of the Rockies (VOTR) on its own is hosting five this summer, all over the state of Colorado: Denver, Steamboat Springs, Vail, Breckenridge, and Broomfield. 210Beach, in San Antonio, Texas, also offered to host a pair. And then there are promoters and organizations all hosting one-off events, such as Volleyball Beach Ozark, Wilmington Volleyball Series, Vollis Beach, Albuquerque Juniors, Great American Volleyball, Third Coast Volleyball, Pittsburgh Grass Volleyball, Carpe Diem Volleyball, Hyden Beach, Pleasure Island Volleyball Club, and Myrtle Beach Volleyball.

Oftentimes, the Big Money Tour events will collide with AVP events.
And sometimes, that’s no problem at all. In fact, it’s a sublime solution to what would have otherwise been a disappointing weekend for Mesko and Losik.

It might not have gone as planned, but it’s also possible that last weekend went even better.

~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew

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