On any given day, recreational softball dominates Krieg Fields.
But just for a weekend, let’s pretend that home plate is a massive beach and it’s low tide just off shore.
The Association of Volleyball Professionals tour, after a 12-year break, is back in Austin and taking over the fields normally reserved for the city’s softball players. The best men’s and women’s beach volleyball teams will be competing through Sunday for the Austin Open Championship.
Just under 100 teams competed in Thursday’s qualifiers for a handful of spots in the main brackets. Play begins Friday.
Beach volleyball is a hot sport, although it gets most of its attention at the Olympics.
It was first included as a medal sport in 1996. Before last year’s games in Rio, the media company Mindshare polled more than 1,000 adults as to what Olympic sports they planned to catch on TV. Nearly three quarters of the group named volleyball.
In Austin the tournament will feature an interactive sponsor village, food and an AVP wine and beer garden. General admission is free.
Some of the highest profile names in the sport will be competing here.
The top seeded men’s duo is Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. Coincidentally, they won their first match as a team in Austin in 2005. The two won the Huntington Beach Open in early May to kick off the beach volleyball season.
The 6-foot-9 Dahlhausser won Olympic gold with then partner Todd Rogers in 2008. He reunited with Lucena in 2015.
Trevor Crabb and Sean Rosenthal are the second seed in the men’s bracket.
Betsi Flynn and Kelley Larsen are the top seed in the women’s bracket after finishing second in the opening tournament. Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar, who won the first tournament of the year, aren’t playing in Austin.
April Ross and Whitney Pavlik are seeded second. Ross will be one of the most recognized competitors. She’s won two Olympic medals — a silver in 2012 and a bronze with then partner Kerri Walsh-Jennings.
She and Walsh-Jennings announced earlier this month that they were splitting up as a team. Walsh-Jennings hasn’t signed an AVP contract and she isn’t listed on the sport’s list of athletes.
AUSTIN OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Friday-Sunday, Krieg Fields, free general admission
Friday: Opening rounds, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Saturday: Elimination rounds, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday: Semifinals, finals, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.