The fourth stop of the 2018 AVP Pro Tour brought beach volleyball to the Bay for the AVP San Francisco Open. With the iconic Bay Area Bridge as the backdrop and Pier 30/32 set as the venue in The Embarcadero, citizens of The Golden City showed up in numbers to support their favorite AVP athletes.
Thursday’s Qualifiers kicked off with 44 men teams and 38 women teams competing for the last four Main Draw spots per gender. The men side battled at Pier 30/32 while the women had theirs at Stanford University. The top four seeds on the women’s side struggled to stay alive through the Qualifiers while the lower seeds shined through the brackets on the men’s side.
Women’s teams that advanced to the Main Draw:
- No. 8 Cassie House / Molly Turner def. No. 1 Nicolette Martin / Allie Wheeler
- No. 5 Mackenzie Ponnet / Kimberly Smith def. No. 13 Sara Putt / Megan Rice
- No. 6 Agnieszka Pregowska / Corinne Quiggle def. No. 3 Bre Moreland / Brittany Tiegs
- No. 10 Kimberly Hildreth / Sarah Schermerhorn def. No. 2 Terese Cannon / Jace Pardon
Men’s teams that advanced to Main Draw:
- No. 33 Andy Benesh / Cole Fiers def. No. 24 Tom Kohler / Tony Pray
- No. 13 Hagen Smith / Lucas Yoder def. No. 5 Duncan Budinger / Daniel Dalanhese
- No. 3 Branden Clemens / Ben Vaught def. No. 6 Spencer Sauter / David Vander Meer
- No. 2 Dave McKienzie / Jeff Samuels def. No. 23 Kevin McColloch / Matt Motter
Friday’s weather called for bright blue skies and warm weather as beach volleyball fans populated the pier with Main Draw excitement. The women went straight to business as No. 8 Kelly Reeves and local Stanford University graduate, Brittany Howard, scored the biggest upset of the day when they took out the No. 1 seed and AVP Seattle Open champs, Emily Day and Betsi Flint. With Howard’s eyes on the prize, she stated, “I’ve played this event twice before, and I grew up watching volleyball here and coming to this tournament. It’s special to finally break through for my best AVP result here.” No. 2 April Ross reunited with her partner Alix Klineman after she missed Seattle due to a shoulder injury. However, it did not slow them down as two-time Olympian (Ross) and former Stanford graduate (Klineman) fought straight through the Winner’s bracket.
On the men’s side, upsets were seen for No. 2 Jeremy Casebeer and Reid Priddy when No. 7 Tim Bomgren and Chaim Schalk sent them to the Contender’s bracket. No. 6 Ed Ratledge and Roberto Rodriguez saw their shine when they defeated No. 3 Trevor Crabb and John Mayer in three sets to advance. With the brackets stirred up from the upsets, the trophy was up for the taking.
The Embarcadero was visited by big crowds and non-stop beach volleyball action for Saturday’s event. Ratledge / Rodriguez remained undefeated throughout the day and cemented their rightful spot on Championship Sunday. Another notable AVP athlete and former NBA player, Chase Budinger, continued to impress the volleyball community by climbing up the ranks as him and Olympian, Sean Rosenthal, made it to their first semifinals as a team. Budinger commented, “Getting to the semifinals shows our progression. Playing with someone like Rosie with all that experience, I try to incorporate as much of his knowledge as I can.”
Howard / Reeves powered into the semifinals after pulling another upset, defeating No. 4 Caitlin Ledoux / Geena Urango in a two-set victory. Day / Flint also saw straight wins on Saturday when they emerged out of the Contender’s bracket to rematch Howard / Reeves in Sunday’s semifinals.
The 2018 AVP San Francisco Open concluded multiple days of intense and dramatic competition. Championship Sunday opened with warm sunshine and challenging wind conditions. High levels of athleticism were required to withstand the conditions and the AVP athletes had to battle through it to keep the ball alive while outsmarting their opponents. Enthusiastic and dedicated fans packed Stadium Court before noon with constant cheering and cowbells heard throughout the day.
In the first women’s semifinal, Ledoux / Urango eliminated Ross / Klineman in two sets, 21-19, 21-15. Day / Flint also saw redemption in the semifinals when they overtook Howard / Reeves in a passionate 21-14, 21-13 victory. For the men, Ratledge / Rodriguez made quick work of their semifinals match against No. 1 Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty in two sets to enter the finals for the first time in 18 years. Budinger / Rosenthal secured their spot in the finals after a nail-biting three-set match against Bomgren / Schalk.
At 41 years old, Ratledge saw his moment when he took down Budinger / Rosenthal in the men’s final with partner Rodriguez. It was veteran versus rookie and Ratledge made sure he saw his win after competing in 145 AVP tournaments. “It feels like a dream,” said Ratledge, who contemplated retirement in 2017 until he began posting the best results of his beach volleyball career. “I didn’t think like this was ever going to happen. If it never happened, I could have lived my whole life and been content, but it did. It’s not about the results, it’s about the lifestyle. I couldn’t be happier with ‘Rafú’ as a partner.”
On the women’s side, Day / Flint achieved their status as not only back-to-back AVP champions, but also as a team to fight through the contenders to win it all. These ladies played tactically to work the wind to their advantage in order to claim their second title as a team, winning 21-17, 16-21, 15-7. With #EmsEntourage cheering exuberantly from the stands, the energy was at an all-time high when the champagne showered the courts. This marks Flint’s fourth win and Day’s ninth win on the AVP Tour. Will they be able to continue their streak?
The next stop on the AVP Pro Tour is the Hermosa Beach Open taking place on July 26th-29th. See you there as we mark the midway point of the season!