The 2018 AVP Hermosa Beach Open kicked off with a record-breaking number of women’s teams entered into the Qualifiers. 102 women’s teams and 115 men’s teams arrived to the iconic sands of Hermosa Beach Pier to compete for Thursday’s hard-fought Qualifiers. With an expanded tournament format from the usual 16 teams bumped up to 24 teams per gender, there were 8 spots per gender up for grabs to get into Friday’s Main Draw. From the start, the pier beamed with constant activity from the insanely large Qualifier action and the AVPFirst National Championships.
Friday’s competition opened with some heat from some new team pairings on the men’s side. Olympic gold medalist, Phil Dalhausser, found himself teaming up with his coach, Jason Lochhead, after original teammate Nick Lucena was forced to sideline due to a groin injury. The No. 6 team played against No. 7 Jeremy Casebeer and new partner Eric Fonoimoana, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist. The crowds spectated in masses to witness these two gold medalists compete against each other on opposite ends. Lochhead, proving his skills work on-and-off the court, helped Dalhausser easily win the match in two sets (21-10, 21-12).
In what proved to be an exciting, crowd-pleasing last match of the day on Stadium Court, Casebeer and Fonoimoana then faced off against “The Beard Bros”, Maddison and Riley McKibbin, in the Contender’s for a chance to continue competing on Saturday. It was anybody’s game throughout the sets, but in the end, the McKibbins pulled out the win in an electrifying third set (12-21, 21-15, 15-12). Donald Sun, managing partner of the AVP, stated, “It has already been a fantastic start to the weekend – a packed beach filled with fans cheering on the largest AVPFirst Championships we’ve had to date and celebrating the best in beach volleyball – and it’s only Friday!”
Crowds were out in full-force bright and early Saturday morning cheering on their local athletes on as the sun shined bright above with non-stop action on all courts. In what proved to be a tough game, the No. 3 ”A-Team” April Ross and Alix Klineman battled for their spot in Sunday’s semi-finals, after narrowly winning a tight third match against No. 2 pair Brittany Hochevar and Kelly Claes (17-21, 21-15, 15-13). When No. 1 ranked Summer Ross and Sara Hughes faced off against No. 4 Caitlin Ledoux and Geena Urango, the match looked as if it could swing in favor of either team. Though Ledoux/Urango put forth their best effort, the match ultimately belonged to Ross/Hughes who secured their rightful spot in the semifinals with a two-set victory (21-17, 21-18). “We went for it with our serves and with Summer serving well throughout the sets, we were able to pull it off,” said Hughes. “In preparing for these matches, our coach has been tough, so we were ready for what was thrown at us. And being able to play in Hermosa Beach where we practice every day, just made it all the more fun.”
On the men’s side, the crowd was treated to an intense and spirited match that brought them to their feet when “Team Skateboard” and AVP San Francisco champions, Roberto Rodriguez and Ed Ratledge, faced off against No.1 ranked Theo Brunner and John Hyden. Spectators were on the edge of their seats throughout the match between two equally paired teams. However, it was Rodriguez and Ratledge who came back strong in the second set and sealed the match in the third with a massive block by Ratledge to advance to the semifinals (14-21, 22-20, 15-13). However, that didn’t stop the No. 1 ranked team there. In the last match of the day, Hyden/Brunner regained their fire and showed the crowd why they were chosen as the top seed when they defeated Lochhead/Dalhausser in a two-set sweep (23-21, 21-10) to land in the semifinals.
Bringing the heat to Hermosa Beach, AVP wrapped up four days of a hugely successful tournament and festival. Tournament crowds of 56,000 attended with emblazoned team shirts and signs, cheering every block and elevating the atmosphere with their exuberant fan loyalty. No. 1 pair Hughes/S. Ross was the early crowd favorite against No. 2 duo Claes/Hochevar. Despite their repeated rally efforts, Hochevar, the defending Hermosa Beach Open champion, and Claes, Hughes’ former partner, could not lock down a set with the top seed winning 21-18, 21-19. Defending 2017 Hermosa Beach Open champions, No. 2 Crabb/Gibb entered Stadium Court ready to challenge the No. 1 team Brunner/Hyden. Pushing the fierce match to three sets, Hyden’s unmistakable hustle lead to a dramatic win with 21-16, 21-18, 15-12.
The finals rolled on with bright rays and an over-filled Stadium Court with loud roars from supportive fans. The seemingly unstoppable Hughes/S. Ross met No. 3 Klineman/A. Ross in the finals. The two teams battled with multiple long rallies and monster blocks — with the A-Team winning the first set and Hughes/S. Ross clinching the second. In yet another three-set match of the finals, Ross’ ace pushed the score to 15-15. With the score frozen on match point and the crowd on their feet for over 30 minutes of play, Hughes/S. Ross narrowly sealed their win over a visibly exhausted Klineman/A. Ross, with a final score 21-19, 21-19, 17-15. “That was so intense, I am still shaking from that match. Thank you so much Hermosa Beach, we love you!” said Summer Ross to a packed Stadium Court.
Former partners Ryan Doherty and John Hyden were forced to face off against one another on opposite sides of the net in the men’s finals. Pulling no punches, Brunner came out strong with recurring blocks, helping Brunner/Hyden win the first match. The steady pairing of Allen/Doherty remained resolute and with Doherty’s kills, easily taking the second match and sending the men’s finals to three sets. In front of a vocal and anxious crowd, both teams went back and forth in an extended run for championship point. However, it was a massive block by Brunner that changed the direction of the game. On a double set violation from Doherty, Brunner/Hyden took the third set and their first AVP 2018 title with a final score 21-19, 21-16, 16-14.
The 2018 AVP Hermosa Beach Open brought the past, present, and future to the sands of Hermosa in what turned out to be an awe-inspiring weekend. The AVP Pro Tour continues to the AVP Gold Series // Manhattan Beach Open on August 16th – 19th at the Manhattan Beach Pier. We cannot wait to see what unfolds there! Catch ya on the sand!