We kicked off the 2018 beach volleyball season at Surf City, USA with a MASSIVE partnership with the FIVB — known as the FIVB Huntington Beach Open, Presenting Sponsor AVP. The FIVB Huntington Beach Open showcased, for the first time ever, a groundbreaking new partnership between the AVP and the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball), which is the international governing body responsible for all forms of volleyball.
The first serve was up Tuesday, May 1st featuring 14 men and 5 women teams in the first-round Qualifier, setting the field for Wednesday’s FIVB World Tour Qualifier. There was intense competition right from the get-go as these athletes battled it out for a piece of the $300,000 purse in the Main Draw. However, it wasn’t going to be easy as international teams from 23 different countries poured into Huntington for their slice of the pie as well.
With the U.S. already allotted 16 Main Draw berths in each gender’s competition, the Americans added 3 men’s and 6 women’s teams to Thursday’s Main Draw event to give the U.S. a total of 41 teams in this event (19 men and 22 women teams). The 48-team, double-elimination competition started Thursday morning as more than 5,000 fans gathered to watch nearly 100 beach volleyball matches across 10 different courts for Day 1 of the Main Draw event.
New U.S. team Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman posted two wins on Thursday with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-13) win against Kropp/VanZwieten (USA) and a 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 22-20) upset victory against eighth-seed Bednarczuk/Lisboa (BRA). On the men’s side, teams from Argentina, Italy, and Norway posted a pair of victories, which allowed them to head into the Third-Round of the Winner’s Bracket on Friday undefeated.
The new and highly-anticipated team of Sara Hughes and Summer Ross lead the U.S. effort Friday and were joined in the Quarter-Finals of the Winner’s Bracket with Fernanda/Barbara (BRA), Antonelli/Carol (BRA), and Humana-Paredes/Pavan (CAN). Teams from Brazil, Latvia, Spain, and the U.S. gained spots in the men’s Winner’s Bracket Quarter-Final Friday after posting two wins.
The fifth-seeded Fernanda/Barbara knocked off ninth-seeded Hughes/Ross from the Winner’s Bracket with a 2-1 (18-21, 21-19, 15-11) win in the Quarter-Finals to advance to the Semifinals — where they faced off against second-seeded Humana-Paredes/Pavan from Canada and proved to be too much for the Canadians as well. On the other side of the Semifinals, Brazil’s Antonelli and Carolina defeated Laboureur/Sude of Germany in a 2-1 (21-15, 21-23, 15-12) victory.
For the men, reigning 2017 FIVB World Champions Evandro/Andre (BRA) and Samoilovs/Smedins (LAT) remained undefeated as they claimed the first two Semifinal spots at the FIVB Huntington Beach Open. Fighting through the Contender’s side of the bracket, which is new for the international athletes, Spain’s Gavira/Herrera and Netherland’s Brouwer/Meeuwsen also claimed spots in the Semifinal. But ultimately, it was Evandro/Andre (BRA) and Brouwer/Meeuwsen (NED) that punched their ticket for the Gold medal match.
With both Brazilian teams taking care of business in each of their Semifinal matches, it was a given that a Brazilian women’s team would win the gold medal. Nothing was guaranteed for the eventual winner on the men’s side – but when Robert Meeuwsen and Alex Brouwer of the Netherlands struck gold, it was a historic moment on American sand. Meeuwsen and Brouwer, the 2013 FIVB World Champions and Rio 2016 bronze medalists, became the first European team in nearly 22 years to win an FIVB event in the U.S. They used their strategy and skill to defeat the 2017 FIVB World Champions Evandro/Andre, 21-16, 21-15, coming up with four aces and knocking the Brazilians off-balance for most of the match. Normally, it’s Evandro serving teams off the court.
Brazil’s Barbara/Fernanda kept their 12-win streak alive by defeating their Brazilian friends Carol/Antonelli in a three-set game (16-21, 21-15, 15-9) to add to the title they earned in March at the FIVB Fort Lauderdale Major. This Gold medal win was the seventh career FIVB World Tour title for Barbara and the fourth for Fernanda. For the veteran Maria, she was denied her 13th career victory but left the beach with nothing but smiles.
After six action-packed days and countless nail-biting matches played on the sunny sands of the Huntington Beach Pier in front of nearly 65,000 attendees and 1.1 million viewers online, the FIVB Huntington Beach Open named its gold medal winners and concluded the weekend. We can’t wait to see what incredible action the next tournament holds, as the athletes head to Texas for the AVP Austin Open on May 17th-20th.