Sunday, 3 December 2023

International Volleyball

Megan Rice was always just “one opportunity away” from breakout

Megan Rice-AVP Hermosa

HERMOSA BEACH, California — It was a hypothetical at first. There was only a space of four days between the AVP Denver Tour Series and the Hermosa Pro Series this past July. Savvy Simo and Toni Rodriguez, after a finals run in Denver, opted to take the ensuing Monday and Tuesday off. A light practice Wednesday also finished early, as Rodriguez nursed a perpetually sore knee. Simo called Josh Glazebrook, the AVP’s Senior Vice President and the man everyone calls when they have a question, request, or problem.

“If I need to make an injury sub,” she asked, “when would I need to do that?”

“Right now.”

“Can you give me an hour, please?”

An hour was given.

Simo had initially only called “on a hypothetical,” she said. Now she needed to make a decision. Their schedule over the ensuing weeks was packed: Challenges in Portugal and Canada, potentially an Elite16 in Montreal, capped by the Atlanta Gold Series, one of the most important events of the season.

“Every single event was more important than Hermosa. They were all more important to us and our goals,” Simo said. “[Rodriguez] had to make the tough decision to not play, which was not easy. It’s Hermosa! I’m sitting there, ‘Who’s even in town? Who’s even here?’”

Anyone not in Hermosa was either in Gstaad for an Elite16 or Wisconsin for the Waupaca Tour Series. It left Simo in a desperate situation. Her boyfriend, Evan Cory, had an idea: What about Megan Rice?

How had Simo not thought of that?

Rice, a 24-year-old rookie, had opted not to travel to Waupaca. It’s an expensive trip, and there hadn’t been anyone she thought she could win with, especially after falling in the Denver qualifier just a few days prior. Her birthday, July 4, was also that weekend.

“I was just going to be home for my birthday,” she said, “watch AVP Hermosa, it’ll be great.”

When Simo called, asking for a last-minute replacement, it was a non-decision: “Yeah I want to play!”

Simo made the call to Glazebrook.

AVP Hermosa had a new 13 seed.

Megan Rice in scramble mode/Mark Rigney photo

“Just an opportunity away” 

At first blush, that team would have been easy to peg as a dream draw for anyone in their path. Here was a pair who had exactly one light serve-and-pass between them and zero competition reps. Rice was playing in just the fifth AVP of her career, and her first true main draw….

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