After two Spikeball Roundnet Association (SRA) events on the West Coast, it was time for the Southeast (and traveling Midwest and East players) to start competing. This past weekend's Atlanta Tour Stop, the first Southeast Tour Event of 2018, was the largest Tour Stop in the region's history. Alongside the large size came a strong field of teams, including six of the top 10 teams. Sunday also featured the second Coed Division of the season.
As expected, the #1 Open team Cisek/Showalter (Tyler Cisek and Peter Jon Showalter) was able to take home first place in the Advanced Division, outlasting the returning and ranked #4 Origin Vengeance (Chris Hornacek and Dylan Fogarty) in the finals. Southeast teams won the other two Saturday divisions with Father-Daugther pair 'Merica (Tripp and Katie Pierson) taking first in the Intermediate Division and Twins (Olivia and Ali Jenkins) winning the Women's Division. Coed competition was fierce on Sunday with Dylan Fogarty of Origin Vengeance and Becca Graham of Ogres Heroes coming out victorious.
Origin Vengeance (Chris Hornacek and Dylan Fogarty, second), Cisek/Showalter (Peter Jon Showalter and Tyler Cisek, first), and Hilltop Spikes (Cole Model and Max Model, third) pose for a picture after the Atlanta Tour Stop.
Heading into Saturday's event there were 10 Power Ranked and 13 Premier teams signed up. These 13 teams battled in the power pools for the top 13 seeds. The 14, 15, and 16 seeds would go to the top finishers of the non-power pools. After pool play, these were the top 16 seeds.
- Origin Vengeance (Chris Hornacek and Dylan Fogarty)
- Cisek/Showalter (Tyler Cisek and Peter Jon Showalter)
- Schweppes (Micah Zimmerman and Jesse Showalter)
- Easily Dug (Andrew Card and Travis Core)
- Hilltop Spikes (Max Model and Cole Model)
- The (717) (Joel Graham and Caleb Heck)
- L.E.D. (Harding Brumby and Grayson Ayres)
- MenAce (Patrick Drucker and George Rizk)
- Nick and Skyler (Nick Sant and Skyler Boles)
- Origin Flow (Nick Daub and Mike Priller)
- Recrem (Gustavo Gonzales and Karry Nusbaum)
- Cho's Bros (Micah Corbett and Caleb Royse)
- Sonic Boom (Connor Harte and Ben Bunze)
- Last Resort (Ben Landes and Addison Powers)
- glhf (Alex Miller and Jonny Colley)
- Chiro Spikes (Chandler Boggs and Drew Kline)
Starting in the round of 32 there was a match-up that we were hoping to see. Two Power Ranking contenders, Origin Flow and Chocolate Milk (Clark Marshall and Tyler Montgomery), faced off. Origin Flow outplayed some ranked teams in pool play and their strong play didn't stop, causing them to beat Chocolate Milk in two games.
The round of 16 is where it got more interesting. Matches to watch out for were Easily Dug vs. Sonic Boom and Nick and Skyler vs. MenAce. The former was notable due to Easily Dug's recent history with Sonic Boom. At both Regionals and Nationals, Ben Bunze of Sonic Boom (and Unicorn Rampage at Regionals) scored a pool play with over Easily Dug. Fortunately for Card and Core the North Carolina team was not able to upset them this time.
Tournament Director Nora White gives morning announcements at the Atlanta Tour Stop.
The 8 seed vs. 9 seed match should always be a close one, but add in the fact that both teams were mash-ups and you don't know what to expect. In this tight battle between Nick and Skyler and MenAce, each team found a 21-19 win and they headed to game three. In that match, MenAce had many opportunities to take the upper hand (mostly due to the good serves of Drucker and Rizk), but Boles and Sant time and time again worked together for ridiculous saves. They could not hold MenAce off forever, though, and dropped game three 21-19 as well.
Like the round of 32 before it, the round of 16 did not have any upsets, leaving us with these quarterfinal match-ups:
- Origin Vengeance v. MenAce
- Cisek/Showalter vs. L.E.D.
- Schweppes vs. The (717)
- Easily Dug vs. Hilltop Spikes
Origin Vengeance versus MenAce was a lot closer than some may have expected. Origin Vengeance is currently the #4 team, but playing against Origin clubmate Patrick Drucker is not easy. Hornacek has said in the past that he is inexperienced versus the serve of Drucker, which is expected as the two were partner's last year. This match went into three-games before Origin Vengeance was able to move on.
Cisek/Showalter is a tough team to ace or score breaks on. Ayres found some success with his serves in this series, especially at the start of game two where L.E.D. found a 4-1 start. The #1 team, however, made a comeback and beat L.E.D. in two games.
Although Scweppes earned a higher seed in Atlanta, The (717) was the higher ranked team heading into the day. These two teams of the Atlas roundnet club faced off and higher ranked The (717) took it in two games.
The last of these quarterfinals was the closest and (arguably) most fun. Hilltop Spikes and Easily Dug are side-by-side on the power rankings so a tight match was expected. Both of the Model brothers and Core are known for their strong serving, so this match could have easily turned into a boring serving match. Instead, to the delight of many, this became a match of limiting mistakes and capitalizing on conversions due to the stellar serve returns and consistent play from all four players.
Partway through game one Hilltop Spikes found a couple solid touches that they converted into breaks for a small lead. At 18-20 Easily Dug kept the game going with break to make it 19-20, but Hilltop Spikes put away the next ball to take game one 21-19.
Game two started with Easily Dug taking a small lead. This small lead then transformed into a huge 11-6 lead, causing Hilltop to take a timeout. After this break Hilltop brought themselves back within two. Of course, Easily Dug responded and brought it back to a 5 point lead at 16-11. If this wasn't back and forth enough, Hilltop soon tied it up at 17-17. In extra points Easily Dug found a break to force a game three.
After this sporadic second game, the teams buckled down in the third. Instead of large lead changes from many breaks, teams could not find many breaks at all. Hilltop and Easily Dug held the same relative score for almost the entire game. This consistency broke at 20-19 when Card missed a spike and ended the game for a 21-19 Hilltop Spikes win.
A group photo at the Atlanta Tour Stop.
In the semifinals, The (717) had to face off with another Atlas clubmate in Cisek/Showalter. The #1 team took this match in two games.
On the other side of the bracket, we had the 2016 top team Origin Vengeance and the newly top 10 Hilltop Spikes. This match was a close one and looking to go the way of Hilltop Spikes until Vengeance landed some opportune serves. Hilltop was receiving at 18-19 when Fogarty found an ace to tie the game and send it to extra points. In extras, Hornacek aced Cole Model to take the lead and a few points later Fogarty aced him for the win. Game two was not as close as the first due to Vengeance taking an early lead at 7-3. This lead was held and even extended at times, bringing Origin Vengeance to a 21-15 lead and finals bid.
The finals, like many finals last year, was a one-sided affair. In both games Cisek/Showalter found an early lead and stuck with it. Cisek and Showalter had successful serve returns which limited any break opportunities for Vengeance. Cisek/Showalter took game one 21-15 and game two 21-17, earning them their first Tour Stop win of 2018.
Hilltop defeated The (717) in the third-place match to make this their highest placement at an SRA event to date.
Last Resort were the "Breakout Ballers" and earned Premier status after playing out for T-9th with other non-Premier teams that exited in the round of 16.
Here are a few thoughts moving forward:
- Cisek/Showalter beat the #4 team by a decent margin. How would the #2 Wabi Sabi or #3 Anchored LI have fared? Similarly, how does Origin Vengeance stack up against the #2 and #3?
- Hilltop Spikes versus Easily Dug is a match that we need to see again, both due to it's entertainment and to see if Easily Dug could beat them if they get a second chance.
- L.E.D. lost to Cisek/Showalter, which is expected of all teams, so we cannot be sure how they compare to teams ranked close to them like The (717) and Schweppes.
Crimson Raiders (Austin Mann and Jonathan Rusk, second), 'Merica (Tripp Pierson and Katie Pierson, first), and The Sky Bisons (Bradley Huffstutler and Braden Treglown, third) pose a picture after the Atlanta Tour Stop.
The 24-team Intermediate bracket narrowed down to these four: Crimson Raiders, Maconga Invasion, 'Merica, and The Sky Bisons. In the semifinals, ‘Merica beat The Skybisons and Crimson Raiders beat Maconga Invasion to head to the finals. 'Merica took down the Crimson Raiders for first and The Skybisons won the third-place match.
The 2nd and 3rd place teams were both playing in their first tournament and beat the #1 seed (Maconga Invasion) in the bracket to make the podium. Tripp Peirson of 'Merica indicated that him and Katie Pierson will be moving up to compete in the Advanced Division at their next event.
Becca and Katie (Becca Witmer and Katie Pierson, second), Twins (Olivia Jenkins and Ali Jenkins, first), and Chacos and Sockos (Micaela McMullan and Anna Tripp, third) pose for a picture after the Atlanta Tour Stop.
After Alli Kauffman of Ogres Heroes hurt her ankle during Advanced Division play, Katie Pierson of 'Merica subbed in with Becca Graham for the Women’s Division bracket. Pieson and Graham took out Chacos and Sockos to enter the finals against Twins of Tennessee. Twins, Ali Jenkins and Olivia Jenkins, held off Pierson and Graham to take home the title.
the autobiographies (Peter Jon Showalter and Alli Kauffman, second), Zesty Zebras (Becca Witmer and Dylan Fogarty, first), and Oliviark (Olivia Jenkins and Clark Marshall, third) pose for a picture after the Atlanta Tour Stop.
Eighteen players returned to the fields on Sunday to compete in the Coed Division. The front-runners heading into the day were Zesty Zebras (Dylan Fogarty and Becca Witmer) and the autobiographies (Peter Jon Showalter and Alli Kauffman). In pool play, Zesty Zebras was the victor between the two and earned the 1 seed into bracket play. The Advanced Division's Chocolate Milk and the Women's Division Twins mixed up into Olivia and Tali, who earned the 3 and 4 seeds.
As seeded, these four teams advanced into the semifinals. Tali took out 5 seed and Intermediate Division winner 'Merica to do so. Once there, the higher seeds once again won out, but not before Ali Jenkins of Tali made a higher play for the ages (Seriously, check this thing out).
The finals between Zesty Zebras and the autobiographies was a tight affair. Consistent play came from all four players, especially Witmer and Kauffman in the form of low hitting. Showalter found a serving groove and brought his team to a game one win. After that, however, that he went a bit cold as Fogarty's serving warmed up. After sneaking by with a 21-19 win to force game three, Zesty Zebras found a 21-18 win to take the title.
Find all streamed matches from the Atlanta Tour Stop HERE.
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