Two hours into the Main Draw of the AVP Austin Open, history was made. It was rather upsetting to some familiar faces.
For the first time in tour history, both the men’s and women’s top seeds lost in the first round, and it occurred at the hands of qualifiers who had already been toiling at Krieg Fields for hours the previous day.
But by Sunday, no one on the court through the Semifinals and Finals was particularly upset, especially the champions – Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb on the men’s side and Jace Pardon and Karissa Cook on the women’s side. Gibb and Crabb, the top seeds, created their own milestone. They became the second team in history to lose their first match and come back to win the tournament, matching the feat of Stein Metzger and Mike Lambert at the 2007 Huntington Beach Open.
By the end of the tournament, the 43-year-old Gibb slumped into a chair with a soaked towel draped over his head. Incidentally, in their Huntington Beach victory two weeks previously, Gibb and Crabb lost on Friday and battled their way back through the Contender’s Bracket. Perhaps they’ve found the formula?
“No,” Gibb said emphatically. “We won despite that. I don’t ever want to do that again. That was brutal, that was a brutal tournament in that kind of heat, we lost a lot of fluids and it’s going to take a couple days to recover. I don’t want to early- call anything, but we’re not going to lose our first round next time. Is that calling my shot?
“We train so we can push through this. I could go another two matches, to be honest with you, but I’m very tired. I don’t know even know what to say, man. Ask Taylor some questions.”
“The biggest thing is staying together,” Crabb said. “So many things enter your mind after you lose to the quote-unquote last seed in the tournament. Staying together as a team was very big for us this weekend.”
There wasn’t much to ask of Crabb, who converted on 11 of his kill attempts in the victory over first-time finalists (as a team) Jeremy Casebeer and Chaim Schalk. Crabb converted his first 10 attempts as Schalk and Casebeer turned their attention toward Gibb. Crabb also had six digs in his near-perfect performance. “Don’t report on that,” Gibb said. “That just gets the world to serve me more Balls.”
Crabb promptly came to his partner’s defense. “I got lucky,” he said. “So they should serve me more.”
Picking the right partner, Pardon me
As much as Gibb (33 AVP victories) and Crabb (six wins) are familiar with popping the champagne, Pardon and Cook had never been in an AVP final. But once they got there, playing in only their second tournament as a team, they dismantled upstarts Sarah Schermerhorn and Kimberly Hildreth in a match that lasted only 38 minutes. It was the first final for both Pardon and Cook.
“Disbelief,” Pardon said. “We’re so excited. It was a really tough tournament, we came out with everything we had. I’m on cloud nine. I used to volunteer at these as a kid. Being from Manhattan Beach, it’s everything to be an AVP champ.”
Cook, who had previously played with Katie Spieler through 14 tournaments, figured Spieler needed a bigger presence at the net that she could provide. So she hooked Spieler up with veteran Kim DiCello.
“I said goodbye to her and I immediately texted Jace at midnight and said ‘Hey, would you think about playing with me, are you available?’ ” Cook recalled. “And she said yes, and here we are.”
The future is now
Irene Pollock, back in her home state, brought with her a college player who just finished her senior year at USC. But Terese Cannon proved to be savvy beyond her years and the duo won their first three matches before falling to Pardon and Cook in Sunday’s Semifinals.
“She is incredible, she’s such a stud and her demeanor on the court is far beyond her age,” Pardon said of her new 6-foot-3 force at the net. “It’s a blast and I’m excited to see where this team can go.”
“I coached at UCLA this year as a volunteer assistant and we played ‘SC’ quite a bit. She was just so poised out there and her potential is through the roof. I’m excited to be along for the ride.”
Even if it was their first tournament together, Pollock saw the spark of the chemistry.
“It was amazing, especially because we had only two trainings before jumping into this tournament together,” Pollock said. “It kind of just grew each match. We just had a ton of talking and tried to figure each other out as quickly as we could.”
Chasing No. 1
For the second consecutive tournament, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena were eliminated by Gibb and Crabb in a thrilling three-set match.
“Both teams sided out at a high level, we had a little more service pressure in the first game and it kind of tailed off,” Lucena said after the Semifinal match. “That’ll happen, it’s going to happen all season.”
“They’re hard to score points on. We sided out well enough to win, but it happens.”
Both teams’ hitting percentages were above 50 percent. Dalhausser converted on 17 of 21 attacks with only two errors. The teams combined for nine aces. Lucena and Crabb each had 12 digs on a steamy Sunday.
Schermerhorn and Hildreth, who have played nine tournaments together, had never finished higher than 13th place in an AVP event. They’ve had to play in the Qualifiers in all nine.
All they did in Austin was win their three qualifier matches on Thursday to reach the main draw, then sprinted through four opponents without dropping a set to reach Sunday’s Final.
“Hopefully it gets us out of the Qualifier,” Hildreth said with a laugh. “That would be the biggest thing. It’s definitely a confidence booster, we’ve believed in ourselves at this level for a long time but it feels good to get some results from it and from all of our hard work. It’s tough to put in so much work and get stuck in a Qualifier and feel good. This was a good week for us to get some confidence.”
Austin was certainly one for the books. Recap the tournament and get all the scores & stats here.