April 28, 2022, Lexington, SC - Maybe you’re tempted to fast-forward. Look ahead to next weekend, when the AVP begins its beach volleyball season in Austin, Texas. There is no need for the fast-forward button. There is AVP volleyball being played this weekend, in Lexington, South Carolina.
This weekend debuts the AVP Grass Tour, beginning with the 33rd annual Clash, put on by AVPAmerica and Lake Murray Country.
It’s a rare format at the Clash: Teams are in triples rather than doubles, similar to the second day of Grass Nationals.
Below are three teams from each gender to watch throughout the weekend. These teams aren’t necessarily the best teams – though they very well could be – but teams with interesting storylines that will be fun for players and fans to follow throughout the entire Grass season.
Men’s teams to watch at The Clash
Ian Capp, Matthew Elias, Nate Miller
Even if this trio weren’t the defending Grass Nationals champs – they are – they’d still enter as the favorite in virtually any tournament they enter. Few have won more tournaments as consistently as Nate Miller and Ian Capp have, and as a trio with Matthew Elias, their worst finish is second, in the 2020 Grass Nationals tournament where they fell to the lowly team of Andy Benesh, Eric Beranek, and a little-known player named Taylor Crabb. Now they’re playing in their third AVP Grass triples event, seeking to win their second straight event together.
Nick Drooker, Angel Dache, Brett Rosenmeier
Angel Dache – “the Cuban Missile,” as many of his grass opponents affectionately call him – is intimidating enough on the beach, bringing a massive serve with an even bigger swing. But put him on the grass, a surface in which he can jump far higher and hit -- unbelievable as this sounds – even harder? It’s formidable. The Missile is teamed up with former 6-foot-6 Hawai’i outside hitter Brett Rosenmeier, who finished third at the Clash a year ago, and Nick Drooker, whose most recent grass win came in July of 2021 at the RVA Grass open.
Tomas Goldsmith, Nolan Albrecht, Schylar Lillethorup
Less than a month ago, if many in the beach community had not yet heard of Nolan Albrecht, he made his introduction loud and clear. In Panama City Beach, Fla. Albrecht and his whip of an arm became one of the most-discussed topics after he and Ian Bicko stunned second-seeded Eric Beranek and Avery Drost. But beach is, in reality, Albrecht’s third-best surface, behind grass and indoor. And it is on the grass that Albrecht will enter the Clash as a favorite to make the finals, with another big hitter in Tomas Goldsmith and former CSUN setter Schylar Lillethorup.
Women’s teams to watch at The Clash
Aurora Davis, Sarah Wood, Adrianna Nora
Find a surface, any surface, for Aurora Davis to play volleyball and she’ll play it. She didn’t even know the rules of the Pottstown Rumble a year ago and promptly won the whole tournament with Lydia Smith. Now Supermom is playing in her first Clash, with young Sarah Wood, a precocious beach and indoor player who took fifth in Panama City Beach with Sara Putt; and Adrianna Nora, a former outside hitter at Minnesota who will be downright deadly on the grass surface.
Kelly Wood, Cadie Koppenhaver, Amanda Robertson
Kelly Wood has not yet entered the Aurora Davis status of Supermom, but she will soon. What was initially planned to be a summer on the beach quickly became a summer on the grass after Wood became pregnant a little earlier than planned. No matter. She’s assembled an All-ACC team of Duke Blue Devils alongside her at the Clash in Cadie Koppenhaver and Amanda Robertson, a team rich in both volleyball experience and on-court chemistry.
Angela Smith, Ashley McGinn, Brittany Lintelman
These three haven’t yet played together in a grass triples event – not one recorded by AVPAmerica, anyway – but they enter the Clash as the three seed and a strong one at that. McGinn won last year’s Susquehanna Smash with Sarah Wood, while Lintelman and Smith have both made a number of finals, both on the beach and grass. Perhaps they’ll make their first as a triples team in Lexington.
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew