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AVP Tour’s Hermosa Beach Open is back – here’s what you need to know

HERMOSA BEACH — When Emily Day first began traveling this year on the AVP Pro Series beach volleyball tour after two years of limited competition due to the pandemic, she thought, “Oh, wow, we’ve got a lot going on right now.”

“I had to remind myself that this is what it should be like,” said Day, who made her debut on the tour in 2009. “We’re super thankful for all the opportunities to be able to play.”

The Torrance native will be among the 64 athletes returning to Hermosa Beach this weekend for the first time since 2019 for the AVP Pro Series Hermosa Beach Open.

This is the sixth event of the AVP season, which will have 16 tournaments this year after holding just three events in the pandemic-impacted 2020 and 2021 seasons. The tournament is under the Pro Series umbrella, with the AVP debuting a new tiered-structure this year for tournaments – Tour Series, Pro Series and Gold Series.

Al Lau, the CEO of the AVP, said he anticipates a lot of pent-up demand after two years off from Hermosa Beach, where beach volleyball is embedded in the culture.

“Everybody knows about the sport, so when the event comes, it’s akin to doing a football game in Texas, where everybody knows football. Well, everybody [in Hermosa Beach] knows beach volleyball,” Lau said. “After a hiatus of two years, I think it just takes on a whole different level.”

For the 34-year-old Day – who won the event in 2017 and 2019 and also has victories at the Manhattan Beach Open in 2016 and 2017 – it is special to play on the same courts that she trains on and in front of a friendly crowd. She has a dedicated fan section called “Em’s Entourage,” a group of 25 to 50 family and friends who wear teal and visibly support her during matches.

“It’s a chance for them to finally see me play live after so long, and especially the past two years,” Day said. “A lot of them enjoy coming to my tournaments, even if it’s like an Austin or a New Orleans tournament, but we just haven’t had that. Everyone’s been itching and dying to go watch some volleyball.”

Here are some other things to know ahead of the tournament, which runs Friday through Sunday:

Familiar faces, different partners

All four winners from 2019 are back this year, but each will have a different partner.

Chase Budinger, who played seven seasons in the NBA before switching to beach volleyball in 2018, notched his first career win in 2019 at Hermosa Beach with 17-time AVP winner Casey Patterson. Budinger is partnered with Troy Field this year in the men’s bracket, while Patterson is playing with four-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser.

Day and Betsi Flint won the women’s title in 2019. Day is playing with Savvy Simo, and Flint is partnered with Kelly Cheng.

Top seeds

Sara Sponcil, who went to UCLA, and Terese Cannon, a USC graduate, make up the top women’s pairing. Betsi Flint, who played at Loyola Marymount, and Kelly Cheng, another USC graduate, are the second seed.

On the men’s side, USC graduate Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, who went to Long Beach State, are the top seed. Chaim Schalk, who lives in Gardena, and UC Santa Barbara graduate Theo Brunner are the second-ranked pairing.

Patterson and Dalhausser, both 42 years old, are the third seed.

College ties

USC and UCLA are well represented in the women’s bracket, with eight players winning NCAA beach volleyball championships for either the Trojans or Bruins.

Sponcil, Zana Muno and Savvy Simo were on the 2018 and 2019 national championship teams for UCLA. For USC, Cannon, Cheng and Sara Hughes played on the championship team in 2016, while Hailey Harward and Julia Scoles were part of the 2021 and 2022 teams.

Tournament schedule

The tournament will consist of 16 men’s teams and 16 women’s teams, competing in a double-elimination format.

Action takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The finals will be Sunday, with the women’s title match taking place at 2 p.m. and the men’s final following at 3 p.m.

The prize

The total purse is $125,000, split evenly between the men and women. The tour will give out a total of $2 million in prize money this season over 16 tournaments, up from $650,000 for three tournaments last year.

Junior Nationals

The AVP Junior Nationals, a youth beach volleyball tournament, is taking place at the same time in Hermosa Beach from July 5-10. That will allow fans to see some extra action on the sand and provide more exposure for the best junior athletes ages 12-18.

Free admission

There is no cost to watch the action. Fans can purchase premium courtside boxes at AVP.com.

AVP Pro Series Hermosa Beach Open

When: Friday through Sunday

Where: Hermosa Beach Pier (1 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254)

How to watch: Live on YouTube/AVP Beach Volleyball. TV coverage July 12 from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. on FS1 and July 16 on Bally Sports, with times varying by region.

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