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Former Buffs Team Up In AVP

May 15, 2008

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Playing in just their fourth tournament together, former Buffs Sara Fredrickson and Allie Griffin made it to their first AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour main draw - earning the team its first professional payday - here at the Family Circle Tennis Center last weekend.

Fredrickson and Griffin played just one season together at CU when Fredrickson was a senior and Griffin a freshman in 2002. Fredrickson began on the AVP tour in 2005 and now has 18 tournaments under her belt while Griffin made her debut with just one tournament in 2006 and now has eight appearances in her young career.

"I'm proud of them," CU coach Pi'i Aiu said. "They have games that complement each other, and they both can learn a lot by playing with each other at this point in their careers."

It was their fourth tournament together after playing the final two last season and entering the qualifier in Huntington Beach, Calif., last weekend.

In 2002, Allie Griffin (left) was a freshman and Sara
Fredrickson (right) was a senior for the Buffaloes

The duo won two matches in that qualifier in Huntington Beach, which set the stage for their appearance in Charleston. They lost in the first round, but being the first appearance in the main draw for either gave them their first professional payday as the they split an $800 prize given for the 17th place finish.

And while that likely didn't even cover their last minute travel costs, the two jumped at the opportunity to play in their first main draw.

"This was very exciting," Griffin said. "We didn't know until the last minute, but the opportunity was just too good to pass up. Hopefully we can use this as a building block and continue to play well in the coming weeks."

There are other benefits besides the money for the team to have traveled 2,500 miles across the country to participate. It offered up a fun opportunity to travel together and see the other coast (both currently reside in the Los Angeles area) and they were guaranteed their highest finish and point total as a team. That is important because it will help them with their seeding in future tournaments. With a lot of the top teams trying to qualify for the Olympics this summer, it could help open the door and act as a spring board toward a successful beach career.

And speaking of successful beach careers, AVP mainstay Rachel Wacholder, an anchor for the Buffs from 1993-96 and star on the AVP tour, is off to another solid start and still has Olympic dreams in her sights. With teammate Tyra Turner, the duo has four Final Four appearances in five AVP events this season including a second place finish in Huntington Beach.

Rachel Wacholder
Courtesy: AVP

After a busy "off season" in which she got married to fellow AVP player Sean Scott and then won four events and more prize money than any other player, male or female, on the inaugural Hot Winter Nights AVP tour, Wacholder and Turner will now start what could turn into an eight-week stretch on the FIVB tour to strengthen their bid for an Olympic berth.

Wacholder and Turner currently rank as the No. 19 team in the race for 24 Olympic spots, but each country - except for the host country - is limited to two teams and the duo currently ranks fourth among U.S. teams. As of now, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh hold the top spot in the world while Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs (from Durango, Colo.) rank sixth in the world and are currently No. 2 among the Americans and Jen Boss and April Ross rank 14th and third, respectively.

Wacholder has indicated that they will continue to play on the FIVB tour - the only tour which counts for Olympic qualifying - until they are mathematically eliminated, which makes the next stretch run extremely important. For Olympic qualifying, the FIVB takes a team's top eight finishes from the 2007 and '08 tour seasons and all four American teams now have eight or nine tournaments under their belts, so from here on out it's all about improving on some lower finishes from last year. Some events, called grand slams, are worth more points to further complicate the process.

As of now, Wacholder and Turner have 2,324 points in the qualification process while Boss and Ross have 2,900, Branagh and Youngs sit at 3,800 while May-Treanor and Walsh lead all teams worldwide with 5,840. A silver lining where Wacholder and Turner are concerned is the fact that they had three finishes outside the top 10 last year that they should be able to improve upon. Shortly after taking an impressive third place in last year's Paris Grand Slam in which they played nine matches in five days, the team had to then travel in order to qualify for the next grand slam in Stavanger, Norway, just two days later and fell before making it out of qualifying, earning just 24 points (compared to 640 for the third place finish in Paris). So their next high finish will replace the 24 points and should help close the gap between the other U.S. teams.

Calculating math that's similar to the Presidential democratic nominating process right now, catching Branagh and Youngs is the ultimate goal and it will be a hard hill to climb. But unlike politics, these teams are just one injury away from moving up and Wacholder and Turner have proved they can win on the world stage with five top 10 finishes in their eight qualifying events to date, so they will keep on fighting.

The next eight weeks on the FIVB Tour begins with a pair of stops in Asia with Seoul, Korea, on May 13-18 and Osaka, Japan, the following weekend before heading to Barcelona, Spain, the last weekend of May. There are then four consecutive Grand Slams in Berlin, Germany (June 9-14), Paris, France (June 16-21), Stavanger, Norway (June 24-29) and Moscow, Russia (June 30 - July 5), before the final qualifying event in Marseille, France, on July 14-19. There are two additional grand slams before the Olympics in Beijing, China, from August 9-22, but they will not count for Olympic qualifying.

The AVP has a lot more local connections than just Fredrickson, Griffin and Wacholder.

Behind the scenes, former CU women's volleyball manager and men's club team player Jake Loskutoff is working with the video department at the AVP while CU grad and former assistant SID Doug Strauss is contracted out by the AVP to handle statistical and public relations duties and often time hires current and former CU staffers to work events (former CU grad and SID Tim Simmons also has a similar role for the FIVB). Former tennis player Kevin Grieve is an associate marketing manager at Crocs and is often times on-site as Crocs is the title sponsor of the AVP for the second straight season.

On the women's tour, Tiffany (Jestadt) Rodriguez begins her ninth season on a beach volleyball tour. She has played in at least eight tournaments every season since 2004 and saw her first action this season in Huntington Beach, where she was just one win short of qualifying for the main draw.

There are even a couple of connections on the men's side despite the fact that CU doesn't have a varsity volleyball squad. Gary Davis played on the club rugby team at CU and tired out as a walk-on for the football team in the early 1990s. He has five tournaments under his belt over the past three summers while LV Hanson, a former men's club player and women's team manager, has also played in a handful of tournaments over the past few years.