Volleyball is one of my favorite sports to watch and play. I’ve never played competitively, just recreationally. I look forward to this event in the Olympics as well. When you think of beach volleyball, you (or at least I) picture the sandy beaches and year-round accommodating temperatures of California. But every year, on Labor Day weekend, the pros come to Chicago for a weekend tournament. And the public is invited to join in on the fun. And the best part is – it’s free!
The AVP tournament takes place right along the lake at Oak Street Beach. Aside from watching top tier players, you also have the sound of the waves crashing behind you and the architecture along Lake Shore Drive as your backdrop. What more could you ask for?
The first and second round of play took place on Friday. Games started as early as 8:00 AM. We were able to fit this in on Saturday afternoon when they had whittled the match-ups down to the quarterfinals. The nice thing about this tournament is that, once a match is finished playing, the stands start to thin out until the next one starts. So, there was never a problem finding a spot to sit.
There were additional options for upgraded seating, but they were pricey.
Another great thing about this tournament is the ability to bring in your own snacks and water. Which we did not do because we did not know. Next year we will be prepared because they also didn’t have much in the way of food/drinks to purchase. The one bar we found did not allow you to leave the area with a drink. What they did have, however, were many sponsor tents handing out free samples or selling their products at a significant discount.
The first match we watched was in the women’s bracket. Emily Day and Betsi Flint won this one and eventually ended up in the Championship game on Sunday. April Ross and Alix Klineman won the second match we watched which also put them in the final game on Sunday. Ross is an Olympic Silver (2012) and Bronze (2016) medalist in beach volleyball. These were the top 2 seeded teams in the tournament and Ross/Klineman eventually won the Championship.
The final match we watched was in the men’s bracket. This game was a little more exciting because the number 1 seed (Budinger/Patterson) was taking on the (underdog) number 20 seed (Lotman/Partain) in the quarterfinal round. The Lotman/Partain pairing was interesting because Miles Partain is only 17 years old. His partner is 33. They have only played a handful of times together, yet, they held their own through the entire match. They lost both games by just the 2-point margin but Budinger and Patterson had to work (hard) for those wins.
There are AVP tournaments year-round, all over the US. But if you happen to live in Chicago, find your way down to Oak Street Beach on the next Labor Day weekend!