Q&A: What you need to know for AVP Tour Hermosa Beach Open

High flying, deep diving and maybe a little sand eating will be on display this weekend at Hermosa Beach.

For the first time since 2019, beach volleyball fans will flock to South Bay to witness 16 men’s and women’s teams battling it out in the sand Friday through Sunday for the AVP Pro Series Hermosa Beach Open. Olympians and NCAA champions USC and UCLA make up the headlining teams for the free event.

While the pros compete for a $125,000 purse, young volleyball players ages 12 to 18 will also take to the sand as part of the AVP Junior National Championships that run through Sunday.

Here’s what to know about beach volleyball and the AVP Tour as it makes its first stop of the season in Southern California at the Hermosa Beach Pier.

What is the AVP Tour?

The AVP Tour is the oldest and longest running premier beach volleyball tour in the United States. Since 1983, the AVP has organized events throughout the country for professionals and young players.

This year’s 16-city tour began in Austin, Texas in May and will conclude in November with the Clearwater Open in Florida. Hermosa Beach will be the sixth stop on the year’s tour after competitions in Texas, New Orleans, Michigan, Denver and Wisconsin.

After the tournament concludes this weekend, the tour will stop in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Atlanta before returning to the South Bay for the AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open August 19-21.

How are the tournaments organised?

Each tournament is a 16-team main draw for both men and women. The higher-ranked teams play the lower-ranked teams first, and the tournament is held in a double-elimination format.

The winner claims the cash prize which varies with each competition.

Betsi Flint dives for a ball during a knockout round match at the AVP Hermosa Beach Open in Hermosa Beach on July 27, 2019. Flint and teammate Emily Day defeated Megan Rice and Kathryn Hogan to advance.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Who participates ?

The 16 events of the season are divided into three series: the Gold Series, the Pro Series and the Tour Series. All of them house different levels of talent. The Gold Series taking place in Manhattan Beach in August hosts mostly Tier 1 players, and the Pro Series in Hermosa Beach this weekend hosts mostly Tier 2 players. Tier 1 and 2 players are the best athletes in the world. sport and compete for the most money. Level 3 and 4 players have a chance of making a Pro Series or Gold Series if they play well enough.

Of the 16 men’s and women’s teams participating in the Hermosa Beach Open, 10 are automatically entered based on their AVP ranking, which is determined by points. The remaining six teams are two wild cards and four duos who earned spots based on their performance in the AVP Tour Series Muskegon Open.

Teams with higher AVP rankings usually appear at multiple stages of the tour and are the top rankings. Up-and-coming players usually make up the lower seeds and only appear in specific tournaments. Al Lau, general manager of AVP, said some of AVP’s top players won’t appear this weekend due to international competition overseas, but will likely make an appearance in Manhattan Beach in August. .

Most of the athletes participating in the AVP Tour are from the United States, although a handful of international athletes also participate. Many of them are also Olympians or have achieved success on the world stage.

Big names competing this weekend on the men’s side include: Phil Dalhausser, four-time Olympian and 2008 gold medalist; Casey Patterson, 2016 Olympian and Tri Bourne, 2020 Olympian.

Big names competing this weekend on the women’s side include: Kelly Cheng, 2020 Olympian and NCAA champion for USC; Sarah Sponcil, 2020 Olympian and NCAA champion for UCLA; and Larissa Maestrini, three-time Olympian and bronze medalist in 2012.

What else should you know about beach volleyball?

Beach volleyball is governed by a different set of rules and elements than its indoor counterpart.

The beach court is shorter than the indoor court and the beach volleyballs are larger, softer and lighter for more airtime. Airtime is important in beach volleyball because two players make up a team rather than six. Beach athletes must master all volleyball techniques and have the stamina to compete in a match.

“In the gym, you could be the libero and you just passed or you just passed or you’re just a hitter,” Sponcil said. “But when you go to the beach, you have to know how to do everything and your weaknesses are easily exposed.”

The notation is also different. The first team to 25 points wins the indoor sets, while the first team to 21 points wins the beach sets. Indoor teams need to win three sets, but beach teams only need two sets.

Playing in the sand or on a wooden court is a major difference. Sponcil said the sand is gentle on the joints, but not so much on the feet. Beach volleyball players remedy the burn with sandbags or by pouring water on the court. Some just pass.

“You can’t move well with them, so I’d really rather burn my feet than wear those sand socks,” said Hailey Harward, a two-time national champion with USC and competitor this weekend. “If it’s really bad, I’ll wear the socks.”

The Phoenix native who also played indoors at Long Beach State has become quite familiar with the sand.

“I’m a big sand eater,” said Harward. “I love throwing and diving for the ball, so often I have sand everywhere – in my ears, in my mouth, from eating sand for a week.”

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