Just a year ago, 21-year-old Summer Ross and her 26-year-old partner Emily Day never expected to be the number one seed headed into the early action of the AVP Tour opener in St. Petersburg on Friday. “I would have been like ‘What? We won’t even qualify!’ I wouldn’t have believed it,” Ross says, laughing at the idea. Ross and Day began the AVP Tour last season so far outside of the top 12 teams that they had to play through the qualifying round of their first two tournaments just to make it to the main draw. “It’s interesting now that we don’t have to qualify anymore,” Ross says. “It’s like, ‘Wait, I’m supposed to be playing today!’”
The young pair made a name for themselves last season, emerging from the qualifiers to win gold at their first tournament, the Cincinnati Open. This year their biggest competition will be a pair of veterans teaming up for their first full season, Kerri Walsh Jennings, 36, and April Ross, 31 (no relation to Summer). Although Day and Summer Ross experienced success in their first full season as a pair, finishing second twice, the two aren’t yet comfortable sitting in the top seed. “Last year we were below top 10 throughout the entire season,” Day says. “It’s weird. I’ve never been the number one seed.”
Like Ross and Day, just a year ago, the current number one men’s pair Jake Gibband Casey Patterson were unlikely candidates for the top seed. That’s because they’d both been dumped. Gibb’s seven-year relationship ended with his partner Sean Rosenthal when ‘Rosey’ left to play with 2012 Olympic gold medalist PhilDalhausser. Gibb took solace in the less experienced Patterson, who’d also just experienced the volleyball equivalent of heartbreak, when his former partner Ryan Doherty left to play with Todd Rogers (Dalhausser’s ex-partner).
“I got dumped after a year where we were the number one champion in the world,” Gibb says. “So I really had my choice of almost anyone and Casey had just started doing some really great things on the AVP tour. I took a leap of faith.”
Gibb says that his leap carried him to his favorite year on the AVP tour, as he and Patterson finished as the top U.S. men’s pair, winning four out of seven AVP tournaments. The best part? “I sent [Sean Rosenthal] a text that said, ‘Suck it!’” Gibb says jokingly. “That moment was great.”
Edge caught up with members of the two top-seeded pairs as they traveled to St. Petersburg to kick off the seven-tournament 2014 tour that will carry them across the country, from stops in Cincinnati and Milwaukee to Salt Lake City and Huntington Beach.
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