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For the first time in 13 years, the AVP touched down on the tropical sands of Hawaii for the 2018 AVP Hawaii Invitational, Presented by Hawaii Tourism Authority. With this monumental return, it was only fitting that this invitational was the last event to cap off the 2018 AVP Pro Tour season. The 3-day Hawaiian event included two different yet exciting tournaments for locals that have waited over a decade and fans that have traveled across the sea.

On Friday, Waikiki hosted the third stop of this year’s King of the Court Crown Series, a one-day tournament which featured a total of 30 international and U.S. teams all competing in a new and fast-paced format for a slice of the $150,000 purse. Five teams per pool battled it out in rotational matches with one team eliminated per match. There’s a Challenger’s side and a King’s side. Challengers serve and points can only be scored on the King’s side. If the Kings win the rally, they get one point and stay in their kingdom. If they lose, they’re off the court and are sent to the back of the line of waiting teams for the serve. Challengers then move onto the King’s end to face the next team. The team with the least points on the buzzer is out.

After grueling rounds of quick competition and teams fighting at their best to stay alive, Team USA swept the tournament as Hawaiian-native Taylor Crabb and partner Jake Gibb were announced the Hawaii Kings of the Court, with Emily Stockman and Kelley Larsen crowned as Hawaii Queens of the Court.

Day two of the AVP Hawaii Invitational hosted matches under gorgeous sunny skies along the beaches in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. Only eight teams were invited per gender, bringing together top U.S. athletes and some of the best beach volleyball teams from around the world in one epic weekend of competition. A fan-favorite of the day came from the men’s side as Hawaii-born athletes and No. 7 seed Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb took down the season-dominant and No. 2 seed Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena on Stadium Court in front of childhood friends and family. After the third set upset (21-15, 16-21, 15-7), the three-time 2018 season champions were ousted into the Contender’s bracket as Bourne/Crabb continued their winning streak throughout the day. The No. 1 team in the world and in the tournament, Anders Mol and Christian Sorum from the Netherlands clinched their first match in three sets against No. 8 seed Jeremy Casebeer and Reid Priddy (21-16, 18-21, 15-9). Mol/Sorum then met the other Dutch team and No. 4 ranked Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen to fight through three nail-biting sets. It was the 2018 FIVB Huntington Beach Open champions, Brouwer and Meeuwsen, that saw the victory and knocked the world’s top team into the Contender’s.

The women’s side held many world-class volleyball matches along the Waikiki coastline with the world’s top team and No. 1 ranked Ágatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda “Duda” Santos Lisboa powering through Saturday in straight sets against Sarah Sponcil & Terese Cannon (USA) and Sarah Pavan & Melissa Humana-Paredes (CAN). On the other side of the women’s bracket, No. 2 team Sara Hughes and Summer Ross breezed through No. 7 ranked Azusa Futami & Akiko Hasegawa (JPN) in two short sets early in the morning (21-14, 21-12). They went on to meet No. 3 Alix Klineman and April Ross once again since their Chicago Championships match. However, it was Hughes/S. Ross this time that lost two straight sets to the A-Team (21-15, 21-12).

The 2018 AVP Pro Tour came to a close on the last Championship Sunday of the year as fans were treated with two exciting finals. Dalhausser/Lucena met Bourne/Crabb once again in the semifinals after battling out of the Contender’s to turn the tables and take the win against the fired-up Hawaiians (21-13, 21-18). The men’s final was enhanced by the freeze rule when Dalhausser/Lucena matched up with Brouwer/Meeuwsen (NED). At 20-14 in the second set, the high-flying, hard-hitting Dutch pair Brouwer/Meeuwsen climbed back into the match, and even had set points of their own until Lucena closed it out with a spike on the 47th serve to close the secondset and match at 27-25. The 47-serve-freeze is a match record!

“Robbie and Alex, boy they pushed us. They’re one of the best teams in the world and on this surface, they’re tough to stop. We had to put service pressure on them and that’s what got us here (winning),” said Dalhausser. Asked about their schedule for the remainder of the year, Lucena responded jokingly: “We’re not doing anything. Don’t push anything upon us.”

The women’s final was a familiar American showdown when Hughes/S. Ross took the long road to the finals and fought their way back to face off against A. Ross/Klineman. In a rematch of the Saturday battle at the AVP Hawaii Invitational, these top women’s teams also faced off for the third time in the finals. Play started off in the A-Team’s favor with exceptional defense from Hughes that helped lessen the lead to a four point difference (13-17). Hughes/S. Ross continued to show their power by bringing the game within one and with momentum, they came from behind to clinch the first set (21-18). Hughes/S. Ross, have two losses on their 17-2 record this season, and those two losses come from A. Ross/Klineman. April had an incredible pick-up deep in the back court forcing Alix to get the ball over the net, in what turned out to be an impressive and extensive rally, allowing the duo to come out on top of the second set (21-19). The third set was anyone’s game with both teams having won one set each. Crowds cheered and watched attentively as the A-Team eventually sealed their victory as the AVP Hawaii Invitational women’s champions, winning the third 15-10.

The 2018 Pro Tour season wrapped up in amazing (and tropical!) fashion and we would like to thank all of the fans, athletes, and staff members that made this historical season possible. Stay tuned with our blogs to keep up with what some of our athletes are up to during the off-season. We look forward to catching you on the sand in 2019! 👋

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