Only one thing was hotter than the sand at the AVP Hermosa Beach Open, and that was the resurgent duo of Emily Day and Betsi Flint.
As the top seed in the tournament on the women’s side, not only did they win all five of their matches, they never dropped a set along the way. Their average margin of victory per set was a comfortable six points.
“It’s amazing, I grew up watching this tournament, and to win here is awesome,” Day said. “And then to have this be Betsi’s first time here and then win is incredible.”
It was AVP title No. 9 for Day, the fifth for Flint, and Day and Flint have now won three together. Day and Flint both missed last year’s Hermosa Open to play in an international tournament in Tokyo.
This was the second time this season that Day and Flint were the top seeds on the AVP Tour. The first time didn’t go so well— they lost in the first round, then again three matches later and finished seventh.
Internationally, they kept running into the country quota rule and missed the Main Draw in three consecutive tournaments.
Then they arrived in Edmonton, Canada, and kept winning until they ran into 2019 World Champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, who were determined not to lose in their home country.
It was the first AVP victory for the duo since July of 2018 in the San Francisco Open.
Speaking of Firsts
Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson finally got their breakthrough in the 2019 season!
After Patterson and Budinger just missed reaching the championship match in the AVP Seattle Open, a crestfallen Patterson declared:
“We belong in the finals in every tournament.”
That’s how the newly formed duo started the 2019 season, by reaching the finals in the Huntington Beach Open before falling to top-seeded Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb.
This time in Hermosa, they not only belonged in the finals, they sealed the deal with a three-set victory over Ryan Doherty and Miles Evans.
They went undefeated in their five matches, with Budinger coming up with eight blocks and Patterson 11 digs in the final. Though they didn’t lose, they showed their ability to come through in crunch time by winning three-set matches three times.
Patterson may be a little on the flamboyant side— he certainly knows how to draw the crowd’s attention— but he credited the more reserved Budinger for carrying the team through.
“I relied on my guy to be a freak athlete and block every ball,” Patterson said, “and then I just sat back and cheered.”
More Than Qualified
For only the fourth time in AVP history, including once this season at the 2019 Austin Open, a team fought through the Qualifiers and reached the final (there were an astounding three Qualifying teams to reach the Semifinals).
Kathryn Hogan, a 25-year-old native of Serbia and a Florida resident, teamed with Megan Rice, another 25-year-old Floridian.
All they did in their first tournament together was win three qualifying matches on Thursday, then rolled to victories in their first three Main Draw matches. They lost to Day and Flint, then climbed back to reach the final with two Contenders bracket victories.
For the statistics crowd, it was a busy weekend at the women’s tournament. The seeds of the Semifinal teams (1, 18, 21, 24) amounted to the highest combined total (64) in AVP history, eclipsing the total of the 2017 Manhattan Beach Open (41).
Heartbreak of the Week
One day they were in the Alps, riding their rented bikes after falling out of the international tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland. And Sara Hughes and Summer Ross had their sights set on the next big chance to pick Olympic qualification points in the Tokyo 4-star event.
Then the next thing you know, they’re on a plane back to Southern California because Ross’s back pain refused to go away.
It’s feared that Ross has a stress fracture in her back, and the team that was ranked seventh in the world at the time was stopped in its tracks. Ross, 26, is still awaiting word on how long the injury could keep her out of action. Ross and Hughes were the Hermosa Beach Open champs in 2018.
Undaunted, Hughes turned to her former teammate at USC, Abril Bustamante, to play in Hermosa.
“Oh my gosh,” Hughes said, trying to relate her emotions of the week. “Right now, we’re just taking it day by day and that’s all I can say. For me, I just don’t not want to play. I’m proud to play with a really good friend. We battled through the Qualifier and it was exciting to make it here to Saturday at the AVP.” The two were a Late Entry, resulting in their having to go through the Qualifiers to make it into the Main Draw.
“I know, we’re still top 10 in the world right now (tied for eighth at the moment). It’s unfortunate this injury came at this time. I’m not giving up hope on Tokyo (for the 2020 Olympics) whatsoever. That’s my goal, that’s my dream.”
“It hurts not being there, it’s crushing. That’s why I’m so happy I got to play here.”
Get all the stats and results from the entire tournament here.