Where in the world do we go in order to analyze the 2019 AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open?
Clearly, there was the worldwide impact of Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan squeaking past April Ross and Alix Klineman in a final that lasted 1 hour, 18 minutes and kept the local fanatics not just on the edge of their seats, but standing and roaring on each point as the match went along.
Ross and Klineman from the USA, ranked No. 1 in the world. Pavan and Humana-Paredes from Canada, ranked No. 2 in the world. We all know how Manhattan Beach and volleyball have blessed the world, but this was a one-of-a-kind treat.
Only days after seeing their names emblazoned on the Manhattan Beach Pier Walk of Fame for their victory in 2018, Ross and Klineman ran into a team with the same dream.
“Melissa and I grew up watching this event on TV in Canada and it was always our dream to play here,” Pavan said. “We’ve had a lot of battles with April and Alix so we knew it would be really tough, but to be able to play in this environment and to get our name on the pier at a place where we now call home is unbelievable.”
Reid Priddy and Trevor Crabb, after only three practices together, made Manhattan their first AVP Tour victory by defeating Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger, who were the tour’s most recent champs in Hermosa Beach. It took three gutty victories on Sunday to get it done, and to think these guys kind of despised each other for a couple of years.
“It’s surreal,” Priddy said. “It all happened so fast.”
“This is the tournament everyone wants to win,” Crabb said. “I think it’s the greatest beach volleyball event ever, so prestigious, and to have our names on the pier forever, there’s nothing like it.”
It was the fifth time April and Alix and Sarah and Mel have stood across the net this season and four of them have been finals.
The first time was AVP Huntington Beach, where the A-team won a thriller. Two weeks later, it was Itapema, Brazil and another three-set win for the Americans. Then came Hamburg for the World Champions, and it was the Canadians surviving for a 23-21, 23-21 victory before 12,000 fans.
April and Alix responded three weeks later with a relatively easy two-set victory in Tokyo.
Then Manhattan loomed. April and Alix were defending their home sand with a 30-match AVP winning streak that began at the same place a year ago, and they were seeking their sixth consecutive AVP triumph.
“You know what? To be honest we’ve won the big ones, that’s all I really care about at this point,” said Pavan, a Hermosa Beach resident. “We wanted to win worlds, we wanted to win this one, we came up when it mattered and we came up when it mattered in this one. We’re not going to get hung up on an odd tournament here or there because we are here to win the big ones.”
Unfortunately, April and Alix left stadium court before media could get their perspective on the match. The all-time series between the teams is now tied at 4-4.
Their next showdown could come in the AVP Gold Series Championships in Chicago from Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Not a bad way to spend Labor Day weekend on Oak Street Beach.
How did this happen?
Beach volleyball is a family, and it has its feuds. One of the more out-in-the-open ones has been between Priddy and Crabb.
When they left Austria after the Vienna Major, Priddy and Theo Brunner had decided to part ways. Crabb was heartbroken at the same time after losing Tri Bourne to a broken bone in his hand.
Soon, both Crabb and Priddy received a text on the same thread from Rich Lambourne, who coaches Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb, Trevor’s brother. It was simple:
“Crabb-Priddy on the pier 2019”
“We had already discussed playing in Seattle (in June) and that sort of kicked it into gear, and I texted him a few days later and he said yeah. So we met a few days later and [Trevor Crabb] said, ‘Are you interested?’, and I said yeah. He said, ‘You want to play the left?’, I said sure. We knew we could just grind it out,” Priddy said.
“It’s so perfect, it’s just great. We buried the hatchet a long time ago. I didn’t fully understand where he was coming from and once I saw him – we’re always evaluating other players out here – and one thing I noticed from him that stands out over everybody, I’ve never seen him mail a point in.”
“He never mails it in. If he’s down by six, I’ve never seen him give up,” Priddy added. “I went up to him a year ago and said, ‘Hey, I have respect for you. I don’t like how you act sometimes across the net, but you play harder than anybody out here, and I value that more than anything.’”
All they did together was go 7-1 in three days. Yes, sometimes it looked like they had to introduce themselves to each other on the court, but Crabb is no rookie at 29 and Priddy has won Olympic gold and bronze indoors and knows his way around Huntington Beach.
“We’re both real competitive, we’ve got that grit so we don’t need that whole team chemistry yet,” Crabb said. “We just come out and play hard and it came out in our favor.
“It was just a terrible situation with Tri and how it all went down and obviously I feel terrible for Tri that he couldn’t come out here. I wanted to get my first win with him, one of my best friends. Reid stepped up, a pretty solid sub right there, and to win our first tournament for both is pretty awesome.”
His hand in a cast halfway up his forearm, Bourne was all smiles.
“I had to get my feet on the sand for the Manhattan Finals,” he said.
Facing the unexpected
Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger made their third finals appearance in five AVP tournaments and the Hermosa champs might have been just as surprised as anyone to see Priddy and Crabb across the net.
Business vs. pleasure?
“They’re going to play free and have fun, there’s no expectations for them to win, the pressure’s on us as an actual team who just won a tournament, and they’re just here to have fun,” Patterson said. “They took advantage of a real good opportunity that no one knew how to scout them out because they’re brand new, and who knew what kind of chemistry they would have because they’ve hated each other for five years.
“And somehow they figured it out. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to be buds to win. But good for them. Reid Priddy played pretty unbelievable.”
After Chicago, we get more drama. Priddy and Brunner are reuniting for the FIVB World Tour Finals in Rome and Tri and Trevor will pair together for the same tournament.
Bourne likely will not be able to play as his cast doesn’t come off until September, but just by showing up he and Crabb can procure some Olympic qualifying points. And who knows what lightning might strike with Priddy and Brunner?
Bourne and Crabb are destined to reunite and Bourne should be able to play in time for their home sand at the AVP Hawaii Open Sept. 20-22.
Ah, but another catch.
Bourne’s wife Gabby is due to deliver their baby girl on Sept. 14. At this point, it’s simply stay tuned for the next chapter of this saga.
At some point, the AVP will likely welcome Lauren Fendrick back after she took time off to give birth to baby girl Willa with her husband Andrew Fuller.
Her first step back to competition will be with Sara Hughes, who placed third in Manhattan with Brandie Wilkerson after they pushed Ross and Klineman to three sets in the semifinals.
Hughes and Fendrick, who have competed once together (Fort Lauderdale Major in 2017), are entered for the World Tour Finals. With Summer Ross’s back injury expected to keep her sidelined for the rest of 2019, Hughes has had to partner-shop.
“I was thinking about going to Rome and Lauren and I ended up talking and she’s been training real hard and getting back into it after having her baby girl,” Hughes said. “She is dedicated, she is one competitive person and she’s like ‘Let’s do this, let’s get after it. I’m not afraid to go and play internationally.’ I really respect her, we’ve played once before and we clicked really easily and we played well together.”
Fendrick has four career AVP victories, reached the Rio 2016 Olympics with Brooke Sweat and captured the silver medal at the 2017 FIVB World Championships with Ross.
Fourth time’s a charm
Kelly Reeves hit the sand with her fourth partner of the season, rookie Terese Cannon. The UCLA-USC connection was a hit right off the bat and they placed third after a semifinal loss to Pavan and Humana-Paredes.
It was the first semifinal for Reeves since July of 2018 with Brittany Howard, but perhaps it won’t be the last.
“It just goes to show that all the training’s paid off,” Reeves said. “I mean, this is the Grandaddy of them all, the Wimbledon, and it’s a full field so it’s a privilege to be out here with some of the best teams. We just played the No. 2 team in the world so that was a fun run despite the result.”
Reeves has already played six international tournaments and her latest result was a fifth-place finish in Edmonton. Now her plans are to bring Cannon along in her travel agenda after Chicago. They can build up some points in 2 or 3-star events to earn their way into bigger tournaments.
“We’re probably going to 2s and 3s and maybe if we can get in some 4s,” Reeves said. “It’s the Olympic run right now, so we know where we stand. We’re just going to chip away and take any tournaments we can get.
“Chetumal (Mexico, a 4-star in November) is definitely on the radar, it depends on which teams decide to go but we’re going to sign up, and hopefully we can sneak into that one, and if not, we’ll just keep grinding away and get ready for 2020 and see what happens.”
That’s the best thing about the AVP. We get to see what happens next, anywhere in the world.