This is the one. Perhaps it was surprising to scroll through the entry list for the AVP Austin Open, and then keep scrolling…and keep scrolling, all the way to 66 teams for the men.
Sixty-six teams? In Austin?
Yes. Sixty-six teams. In Austin.
There’s a reason for this. Aside from the fact that Austin is the capital of the largest state in the country and one of the greatest cities in America in terms of, well, anything – music, night life, scenery, museums, if that’s your thing – this is the qualifier that appears, on paper, somewhat reasonable.
The big dogs – Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner, Ryan Doherty and John Hyden – are gone, off to Rio de Janeiro for a four-star FIVB event. This allowed the top three qualifying teams – Kevin McColloch and Roberto Rodriguez-Betran, Chase Frishman and Mike Brunsting, Maddison McKibbin and Reid Priddy – to slip into the main draw.
Which means the qualifier, once an indomitable affair, is wide open. Suddenly, buying that $400-plus plane ticket, and paying for a hotel, and Ubers or rental cars – unless you’re just road-dogging it, which if you are, good for you – seems like an ok investment.
So let the entries pour in, all the way to 66, five more than the Huntington Beach Open, which has annually been the site of the largest qualifier for a 16-team draw.
Aside from massive, one word can perfectly sum up this qualifier: Parity.
Anybody’s bid: I only see one team that could be considered somewhat of a lock to make Friday’s main draw: Ed Ratledge and Eric Zaun, who really shouldn’t even be in the qualifier anyway, snubbed by the forever-ambiguous “wild card,” which was awarded to Priddy and Maddison McKibbin.
This tournament is almost a glorified CBVA, as there is only one ringer and legitimately 20 or so teams with decent odds to make it in. I’ll break down each of those in the “favorites” and “dark horses” columns, which is a bit of a misnomer, because, mathematically, you shouldn’t have 20 or so favorites and dark horses to qualify for four spots. But I’m not so good at math…
You can find the full preview at VolleyballMag.com.