Competitors take a time out while volunteer ball girls play during the qualification rounds for the AVP San Francisco Open on Thursday. (Shannon Cole/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Competitors take a time out while volunteer ball girls play during the qualification rounds for the AVP San Francisco Open on Thursday. (Shannon Cole/Special to S.F. Examiner)

AVP tournament gets off to leisurely start

Qualification for the Association of Volleyball Professionals San Francisco Open began early on Thursday morning, a clear and warm day perfect for a not-so-leisurely stroll down The Embarcadero before spending the day on the court.

That’s what competitors Lindsey Knudsen and Corrine Quiggle did before their first match. At 8 a.m., they were standing in the Ferry Building when they saw the time and realized they were due on the court nearly a mile away on Pier 30.

Knudsen and Quiggle immediately bolted down The Embarcadero — nearly a mile — in their flip flops. And as fate would have it, their match was on the farthest court.

Fellow competitors looked on worriedly as the clock ticked. But the ladies were lucky and stormed onto the court with just moments to spare before automatic forfeiture.

They won their match against the ninth seeded pair of Terri Del Conte and Summer Nash 21-19, 21-17.

But their good fortune came to a halt when they met the aggressive defense of Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler, who defeated them 21-18, 21-19.

Martin and Wheeler were just one win from advancing into the tournament’s main draw on Friday, but they fell to the top seeded Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes in the final round of the day.

The other women’s teams advancing to the finals were Aurora Davis and Bree Scarbrough, Jace Pardon and Brittany Tiegs, and twin sisters Madison and McKenna Witt.

The Witt sisters will face 3 time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings and her partner, the hard-serving Olympic silver medalist April Ross, on Friday in the opening round of the main draw.

The men’s competition didn’t include any prematch sprints, but still provided action on the court.

The top-seeded pair — Ty Loomis and Marty Lorenz — easily defeated their first opponents, but lost the first game in their second round of play. After rebounding to win the last two matches, they tore through the next round of play and will face Ryan Doherty and Ty Tramblie tomorrow.

Also playing through to the men’s tournament main draw are second-place qualifiers Paul Araiza and Alejandro Parra, fourth-place qualifiers Michael Brunsting and Chase Frishman, and 22nd-place qualifiers Torey DeFalco and Matthew Hilling.

For many fans, the main draw is just that. But for Raimi Young of San Francisco, Thursday’s qualifying rounds deserve top billing.

“A lot of spectators miss out on the up-and-coming stars — what I like to call the rising youth,” said Young, who played alongside main draw competitor Brittany Hochevar in indoor volleyball at Long Beach State.

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