Canadian Olympian Wilkerson, paired with Hughes at AVP MBO, “I think it’s time to win one”



Brandie Wilkerson was fired up with Heather Bansley when they played Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in the Tokyo Olympics/Ed Cha, VBshots.com

Brandie Wilkerson has been so close on the AVP Tour.

Twice she’s lost in the final, including at AVP Manhattan Beach.

“I think it’s time to win one,” she said.

The Canadian Olympian gets another chance this week when Wilkerson and American Sara Hughes play in that same AVP Manhattan Beach Open.

Wilkerson has had quite a month. 

She and Heather Bansley tied for fifth in the Tokyo Olympics after knocking out Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in the round of 16 before losing to Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka in three sets in the quarterfinals.

Then last weekend, Wilkerson and Hughes tied for seventh in Atlanta, losing to Claes and Sponcil in the third round of the contenders bracket.

At which point you might ask: How does Wilkerson get to play on the American domestic pro tour?

Well, this 29-year-old blocker, who is perhaps a shade over 5-foot-10 but can touch well over 10 feet, is a Canadian citizen. But her mother, Stephanie, a former Swiss national-team runner who has a few Ironman triathlons to her credit, is Swiss. And her father, the 6-10 former pro basketball player Herb Johnson, is American.

Which adds up to three citizenships for Wilkerson.

But that’s not all.

Wilkerson didn’t even start playing indoor volleyball, so much as beach, until she was 17. 

She loved rugby.

Back to Wilkerson in a minute. First, a note about the AVP Manhattan Beach. 

Play got under way Wednesday with the first of two days of qualifying. Ed Chan’s photo gallery can be found elsewhere on VolleyballMag.com. 

Wednesday’s results and Thursday’s schedule follow. The main draw begins Friday and we’ll have more on that when Thursday’s action wraps up by the Manhattan Beach Pier.

Wilkerson and Bansley, the 5-7, 33-year-old defender, had a tough start in Tokyo. 

They lost their first match in pool play to Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia of China in three, but bounced back to sweep Argentina’s Ana Gallay and Fernanda Pereyra. Then they lost in two to Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa. 

But even at 1-2, they got into the round of 16.

“During pool play Heather and I were really finding our groove,” Wilkerson said. 

They won an epic match with Claes and Sponcil 22-24, 21-18, 15-13.

Brandi Wilkerson passing in Tokyo/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

In the quarterfinals, Wilkerson and Bansley lost to Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka 21-13, 18-21, 15-11.

“The experience was unforgettable for a lot of reasons,” Wilkerson said. “Definitely an emotional roller-coaster. There were just a lot of things that were new, but some that were underwhelming. Granted it was the Olympics, but there was COVID and the restrictions. I think I learned a lot in life and about my career.”

The loss capped a long stretch in which Wilkerson and Bansley had been together. Because of COVID, they moved to Brazil and stayed there, taking advantage of training in the hot weather they would expect in Tokyo.

“We definitely respect each other,” Wilkerson said of Bansley. “The amount of time we spent together — we had to live together for about eight months in Brazil. We got an apartment together and stayed together on the road not knowing really anybody else, and to be able to do that, train every day, work out every day, live together takes a lot of patience and understanding of each other and communication and dedication to our goal. We both respected how much work and effort and sacrifice we make, because we see it in each other every day, and when it’s finally time to play, it was OK, this is what we did this for, all the challenges, all the good times, this was it.”

You’ve heard it so many times, but Paris is only three years away. Which is a year shorter than most Olympiads, but still three years.

“We’ll see,” Wilkerson said. “I think I’m just taking it one lump at a time. There’s no real rush to make decisions about next season. I think the five years that just happened was a lot to process.”

When you think about it, the last 12 years are a lot to process. 

Just imagine how quickly Wilkerson has progressed.

“I wanted to be a rugby player,” she said, laughing. “I loved it. I played in high school and I was going to play for the (Ontario) provincial team, and see how far I could go. I wanted to play in college. 

“But I played volleyball instead.”

She played right side from 2010-2014 at York University in Toronto, graduating with a degree in advertising. After that, Wilkerson went to the beach and obviously had a future.

Bansley played in the 2016 Rio Olympics with Sarah Pavan, but they broke up after those Games. Bansley and Wilkerson partnered later that summer and finished ninth in the FIVB World Tour Finals and in 2018 ended the season ranked No. 1 on the World Tour. 

When the Tokyo Olympics ended, “I was ready to come home,” Wilkerson said, which in both our cases is Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where we visited on Tuesday. 

Baton Rouge is where her boyfriend, former LSU and Major League pitcher Anthony Ranaudo lives. Among other things, Ranaudo owns a gym, so training is not a problem. Ranaudo not only went to AVP Atlanta and will see AVP Manhattan Beach for the first time, but went to Brazil to visit a couple of times.

Brandie Wilkerson lunges for the ball in 2019 AVP Chicago as Sara Hughes looks on/Mark Rigney photo

This week he’ll see Wilkerson play with Hughes, the former USC great. Hughes had been playing with Summer Ross, but Ross was injured in 2019 and Wilkerson, wanting to play AVP and needing an American, asked if Hughes would partner. 

“She’s awesome,” Wilkerson said. 

Hughes and Bansley “are similar in their work ethic and they’re both grinders and extremely passionate. They bring totally different energies with Heather being older and more of a veteran player. 

“I feel like I learned a lot from her and looked to her guidance and we played off of each other. With Sara, we fire each other up. She’s so excited to play all the time and is very positive and is very extroverted on the court, which is different from Heather. I look forward to them for different reasons.”

Wilkerson and Hughes played together for all three AVP events in the 2020 bubble. They lost to April Ross and Alix Klineman in the first championship match. That was not her first AVP finals loss: Wilkerson first played AVP in 2017, a season in which she partnered with Nicole Branagh and they lost in the Manhattan Beach final. 

Wilkerson and Hughes lost in two AVP semifinals in 2019, both times to Ross and Klineman, at Manhattan Beach and in Chicago.

In the second AVP last summer, Wilkerson and Bansley lost to Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan in the semifinals, and then to Claes and Sponcil in the second round of the contenders bracket in the third tournament. Together, they split $12,500. Last week in Atlanta, they split $5K.

“I think Sara is a fantastic player. She just hasn’t had her shot yet,” Wilkerson said. 

“I love playing with her and she has been awesome enough to understand that I can’t be there for practices and training.”

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Results courtesy of BVBinfo.com
WOMEN
Qualifier Bracket
Round 1
Christine DeRoos/Jayelin Lombard (Q41) def. Megan Luly/McKala Rhodes (Q40) 21-15, 21-19
Giuliana Poletti/Jasmin Suarez (Q48) def. Lacey Fuller/Makenzie Griffin (Q33) 21-23, 22-20, 15-8
Sara Bouzeid/Inanna Eshoo (Q32) def. Heather Lowe/Taylor Wilson (Q49) 21-14, 21-12
Alison Denney/Alexa Downie (Q36) def. Aubrey Kozer/Jordan Pickering (Q45) 21-15, 21-15
Skyler Germann/Taylor Hagenah (Q37) def. Natalie Escher/Alex Reale (Q44) 21-19, 15-21, 15-12
Emily Mattoon/Jae-Lyn Visscher (Q38) def. Morgan Hughes/Lisa Reed (Q43) 21-12, 14-21, 17-15
Xolani Hodel/Kate Reilly (Q35) def. Mailani Burton/Kylie Grandy (Q46) 21-10, 21-11
Peri Brennan/Caitlin Cummings (Q31) def. Rileigh Powers/Jaden Whitmarsh (Q50) 15-21, 21-18, 15-9
Tawnee Luafalemana/Tani Stephens (Q34) def. Thinesa Sri/Mercedez Vaughan (Q47) 19-21, 21-18, 15-12
Sophie Moore/Natalie Myszkowski (Q39) def. Madeline Bonanni/Jenna Colligan (Q42) 23-21, 21-10
Round 2

Heather Friesen/Samantha Parrish (Q25) def. Christine DeRoos/Jayelin Lombard (Q41) 21-17, 21-12
Sara Bouzeid/Inanna Eshoo (Q32) def. Giuliana Poletti/Jasmin Suarez (Q48) 21-18, 21-14
Nicole Reinking/Tessa Van Winkle (Q29) def. Alison Denney/Alexa Downie (Q36) 21-10, 30-28
Terri Del Conte/Carol Welcher (Q28) def. Skyler Germann/Taylor Hagenah (Q37) 21-12, 21-19
Lindsey Kammermeier/Maria Kliefoth (Q27) def. Emily Mattoon/Jae-Lyn Visscher (Q38) 21-18, 16-21, 16-14
Xolani Hodel/Kate Reilly (Q35) def. Veronica Corcoran/Victoria Corcoran (Q30) 21-17, 21-14
Peri Brennan/Caitlin Cummings (Q31) def. Tawnee Luafalemana/Tani Stephens (Q34) 21-15, 21-19
Sophie Moore/Natalie Myszkowski (Q39) def. Mackenzie Kleespies/Anna Prokofieva (Q26) 21-13, 21-17
Round 3
Lexy Denaburg/Maria Clara Salgado (Q1) vs. Sophie Moore/Natalie Myszkowski (Q39)
Ashley Pater/Bree Scarbrough (Q16) vs. Bailey Bars/Eunyce Vercosa (Q17)
Katie Dickens/Jennifer Keddy (Q9) vs. Alexa Micek/Kristen Petrasic (Q24)
Savannah Simo/Abby Van Winkle (Q8) vs. Heather Friesen/Samantha Parrish (Q25)
Megan Nash/Brittany Tiegs (Q5) vs. Nicole Reinking/Tessa Van Winkle (Q29)
Josephine Kremer/Payton Rund (Q12) vs. Ellina Domnidou/Megan Gebhard (Q21)
Tiffany Creamer/Olivia Stasevich (Q13) vs. Andrea Nucete-Elliott/Jessica Wooten (Q20)
Jessica Gaffney/Tory Paranagua (Q4) vs. Peri Brennan/Caitlin Cummings (Q31)
Katie Horton/Carly Kan (Q3) vs. Sara Bouzeid/Inanna Eshoo (Q32)
Courtney Baleiko/Adrianna Nora (Q14) vs. Toni Rodriguez/Laurel Weaver (Q19)
Lauren DeTurk/Melissa Powell (Q11) vs. Jessie Carnes/Amy Reichel (Q22)
Aurora Davis/Jessica Sykora (Q6) vs. Terri Del Conte/Carol Welcher (Q28)
Iya Lindahl/Lydia Smith (Q7) vs. Lindsey Kammermeier/Maria Kliefoth (Q27)
Delaynie Maple/Devon Newberry (Q10) vs. Charlie Ekstrom/Macy Gordon (Q23)
Simone Gibson/Katie Lindstrom (Q15) vs. Victoria Dennis/Kahlee York (Q18)
Annika Rowland/Teegan Van Gunst (Q2) vs. Xolani Hodel/Kate Reilly (Q35)
Winners Bracket
Round 1

Kelley Kolinske/Geena Urango (9) vs.
Emily Hartong/Corinne Quiggle (13) vs.
Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss (11) vs.
Macy Jerger/Molly Turner (15) vs.
Round 2

Alix Klineman/April Ross (1) vs.
Megan Rice/Sarah Schermerhorn (8) vs.
Terese Cannon/Emily Stockman (5) vs.
Sara Hughes/Brandie Wilkerson (4) vs.
Emily Day/Betsi Flint (3) vs.
Crissy Jones/Susannah Muno (6) vs.
Karissa Cook/Kelly Reeves (7) vs.
Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil (2) vs.
MEN
Qualifier Bracket
Round 1
Chris Fleming/TJ Huson (Q56) def. Nathan Adams/Brett Hornung (Q57) 21-14, 21-12
Brian Wells/Steven Wells (Q41) def. Jay Panther/Chiquito Quintanilla (Q72) 21-12, 21-10
Kibbee Jelks/Spencer Loch (Q40) def. Noah Franklin/Anthony Popoca (Q73) 21-9, 21-12
Robert deAurora/Travis Schoonover (Q33) def. Robert Mullahey/Michael Wexter (Q80) 21-18, 17-21, 15-8
Alessio Signorini/Kyle Skinner (Q65) def. Jerel Deacon/Ben Whiteley (Q48) 21-14, 18-21, 15-10
Justin Chow/Chris Dedo (Q49) def. Keone Coronado/Sawyer Shrock (Q64) 21-15, 16-21, 15-8
Michael Klentzman/Nathan Pugh (Q52) def. River Moore/Travis Moore (Q61) 21-11, 21-17
Tomas Salava/Kyle Stevenson (Q45) def. Andor Gyulai/Daniel Stevens (Q68) 21-15, 21-17
Luke Myers/Jeff Urton (Q77) def. Ian Bicko/Peyton Harris (Q36) 21-18, 21-14
Kyle Baily/John Zappia (Q76) def. Adam Adkinson/Kristopher Back (Q37) 21-8, 21-10
Zephyr Dew/Tennessee Fulks (Q69) def. Patrick Bolton/Brad Torsone (Q44) 21-17, 21-23, 19-17
Alexander Biz/Leor Schiffer (Q53) def. Alex Garibay/Brian Leonard (Q60) 24-22, 17-21, 15-12
Aidan Brown/Marcus Duffey (Q59) def. Garrett Peterson/Lucas Sands (Q54) 21-13, 21-18
Cash Adamsen/Chicory Roth (Q43) def. Kalob Partida/Marcus Urrutia (Q70) 21-10, 21-11
Connor Hughes/Travis Woloson (Q75) def. Jack Lane/Jack Petersen (Q38) 21-19, 21-19
Shane Cervantes/Dasmen Stewart (Q35) def. Kyle Bergstresser/Kevin Cleary (Q78) 21-8, 21-11
John Moran/David Smith (Q67) def. Race Munger/Tanner Smith (Q46) 22-20, 18-21, 15-8
Nathaniel Berg/Kevin Owens (Q51) def. Torin Jeffreys/Jeremy McDermott (Q62) 21-16, 21-19
Charlie Siragusa/Spencer Wickens (Q50) def. Steven Bartlett/Matt Corrales (Q63) by Forfeit
Eric Johnson/Brice Paxson (Q47) def. Alex Amylon/Tyler Dinslage (Q66) 21-13, 21-10
Charles Porter/Clark Porter (Q34) def. Bryan Leifer/Joe Snee (Q79) 21-15, 21-7
Cole Aidnik/Michael Cavataio (Q39) def. Johnny Anselmo/Luke Krzmarzick (Q74) 21-10, 21-9
Matthew Gentry/Jacob Titus (Q42) def. Weston Carico/Steve VanZwieten (Q71) 21-16, 21-18
Art Barron/Gabriel Vega (Q58) def. Jake Kurzrock/Rob McLean (Q55) 21-19, 19-21, 15-13
Round 2
Jon Mesko/Kevin Villela (Q25) def. Chris Fleming/TJ Huson (Q56) 21-16, 21-17
Brian Wells/Steven Wells (Q41) def. Kibbee Jelks/Spencer Loch (Q40) 21-13, 21-15
Alessio Signorini/Kyle Skinner (Q65) def. Robert deAurora/Travis Schoonover (Q33) 21-17, 15-21, 15-9
Ian Carlson/Jordan Gladstone (Q32) def. Justin Chow/Chris Dedo (Q49) 21-18, 21-18
Joe Osmani/Brandon Severyn (Q29) def. Michael Klentzman/Nathan Pugh (Q52) 21-19, 21-18
Tomas Salava/Kyle Stevenson (Q45) def. Luke Myers/Jeff Urton (Q77) 21-17, 21-18
Kyle Baily/John Zappia (Q76) def. Zephyr Dew/Tennessee Fulks (Q69) 21-15, 21-19
Alexander Biz/Leor Schiffer (Q53) def. Marc Fornaciari/Ryan Lehmann (Q28) 21-19, 16-21, 15-12
Mikhail Butler/Nathan Yang (Q27) def. Aidan Brown/Marcus Duffey (Q59) 21-11, 26-24
Connor Hughes/Travis Woloson (Q75) def. Cash Adamsen/Chicory Roth (Q43) 19-21, 21-13, 15-5
John Moran/David Smith (Q67) def. Shane Cervantes/Dasmen Stewart (Q35) 21-14, 16-21, 15-11
Scott Cronick/Nemanja Komar (Q30) def. Nathaniel Berg/Kevin Owens (Q51) 19-21, 21-17, 15-10
Charlie Siragusa/Spencer Wickens (Q50) def. Alexi Gabriel/Tal Shavit (Q31) 13-21, 26-24, 16-14
Charles Porter/Clark Porter (Q34) def. Eric Johnson/Brice Paxson (Q47) 21-15, 19-21, 22-20
Cole Aidnik/Michael Cavataio (Q39) def. Matthew Gentry/Jacob Titus (Q42) 21-12, 21-19
Art Barron/Gabriel Vega (Q58) def. Kacey Losik/Kylen Winterbotham (Q26) 21-19, 21-18
Round 3

Brian Wells/Steven Wells (Q41) def. Jon Mesko/Kevin Villela (Q25) 21-11, 22-20
Alessio Signorini/Kyle Skinner (Q65) def. Ian Carlson/Jordan Gladstone (Q32) 21-14, 22-20
Tomas Salava/Kyle Stevenson (Q45) def. Joe Osmani/Brandon Severyn (Q29) 21-19, 22-20
Alexander Biz/Leor Schiffer (Q53) def. Kyle Baily/John Zappia (Q76) 21-15, 21-13
Mikhail Butler/Nathan Yang (Q27) def. Connor Hughes/Travis Woloson (Q75) 21-19, 21-17
John Moran/David Smith (Q67) def. Scott Cronick/Nemanja Komar (Q30) 21-16, 19-21, 16-14
Charles Porter/Clark Porter (Q34) def. Charlie Siragusa/Spencer Wickens (Q50) 21-12, 21-16
Cole Aidnik/Michael Cavataio (Q39) def. Art Barron/Gabriel Vega (Q58) 17-21, 21-14, 15-13
Round 4

Michael Groselle/David Vander Meer (Q1) vs. John Moran/David Smith (Q67)
Ric Cervantes/Jonah Seif (Q16) vs. Aaron Koubi/Ian Satterfield (Q17)
Curt Toppel/Jake Urrutia (Q9) vs. Nolan Albrecht/Kevin Knight (Q24)
Andrew Dentler/Jon Ferrari (Q8) vs. Mikhail Butler/Nathan Yang (Q27)
Jacob Landel/Lev Priima (Q5) vs. Brian Wells/Steven Wells (Q41)
Garrett Roberts/Garrett Wessberg (Q12) vs. Christopher Austin/Cole Fiers (Q21)
Marshall Brock/Spencer Sauter (Q13) vs. Brandon Joyner/Bryce Mayer (Q20)
Travis Mewhirter/Adam Roberts (Q4) vs. Tomas Salava/Kyle Stevenson (Q45)
Kyle Friend/Brian Miller (Q3) vs. Alexander Biz/Leor Schiffer (Q53)
Raffe Paulis/Aaren Rice (Q14) vs. Alex Diaz/Brett Greiner (Q19)
Michael Boag/Timothy Brewster (Q11) vs. Ray Birtcher/Dillon Cox (Q22)
Avery Drost/Grant O’Gorman (Q6) vs. Cole Aidnik/Michael Cavataio (Q39)
Seain Cook/David Lee (Q7) vs. Charles Porter/Clark Porter (Q34)
Kyle Radde/Jeff Samuels (Q10) vs. Devon Burki/John Schwengel (Q23)
Robbie Page/Hagen Smith (Q15) vs. Jake Dietrich/Marcus Partain (Q18)
Chase Frishman/Ryan Meehan (Q2) vs. Alessio Signorini/Kyle Skinner (Q65)
Winners Bracket
Round 1
John Hyden/Ricardo Santos (9) vs.
Skylar del Sol/Ed Ratledge (11) vs.
Round 2
Chase Budinger/Casey Patterson (1) vs.
Miles Evans/Piotr Marciniak (8) vs.
Tim Bomgren/Jeremy Casebeer (5) vs.
Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb (4) vs.
Theo Brunner/Chaim Schalk (3) vs.
Eric Beranek/Troy Field (6) vs.
TJ DeFalco/Nick Lucena (7) vs.
Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (2) vs.