Thursday, 23 March 2023

International Volleyball

March Madness on the beach with upset-filled AVP Miami and La Paz

March Madness on the beach with upset-filled AVP Miami and La Paz

MIAMI, Florida — Of all the calendar days in the sporting world in 2023, Thursday, March 16, was not the one to expect normalcy. There was nothing mundane about March 16. Nothing usual or run of the mill.

It was March Madness, to be exact, as it marked the opening day of college hoops’ national holiday. And as it does every year, it delivered on its namesake. A 15 seed beat a No. 2, a 13 topped a 4, and a 16 gave a 1 a run for its NIL money.

And yet, somehow, that paled in comparison to the carnage on South Beach at AVP Miami and also at the Volleyball World tournament in La Paz, Mexico.

In the second round alone, seeds No. 1 (Travis Mewhirter and JM Plummer), 2 (Ed Ratledge and Noah Dyer), 3 (Caleb Kwekel and Dylan Zacca), and 4 (Raffe Paulis and Brian Miller) all bowed out, guaranteeing four on-paper underdogs into the first main draw of the 2023 season.

Some were bona fide upsets, take Joey Osmani and Brad Connors, the No. 16 seed, over Plummer and me, or 15th-seeded locals Andrew Holman and TJ Jurko over Dyer and Ratledge. Others, take Steve Roschitz and Pete Connole over Paulis and Miller, or Jordan Hoppe and Charlie Siragusa over Kwekel and Zacca, were upsets only on paper, where the points didn’t necessarily match the talent level of the “underdog” team in question.

In reality, those matches are coin tosses.

But between the upsets and the coin tosses and even the occasional rare chalk walk, chaos reigned on a gusty and mostly beautiful day in South Beach.

Alex Diaz and Brandon Joyner qualified in their first event together, as did the new young duo of Hoppe and Siragusa. Jake Urrutia and Ian Satterfield ended Holman and Jurko’s Cinderella run in the final round, while Roschitz and Connole, long one of the top teams in Texas — since relocated to Kansas City — alas reunited after myriad injuries, are back in their first main draw as a team since Chicago of 2019.

“It’s hard to describe what it’s been like waiting years to do something you feel like you should have been doing,” said Roschitz, who is fully healthy for the first time in, by his count, 575 days after a health scare nearly ended his career. “We played some very tough teams to qualify but the whole time it felt like we were supposed to make it. This weekend was the first time since 2019 where we were both healthy and actually confident about how our bodies felt. Being in Kansas City, we really didn’t get to train much recently due to…

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