After a seven year hiatus, the AVP was back in Hermosa for the Hermosa Beach Open 2017. Starting Thursday early morning, the south side of the Hermosa Beach Pier was overtaken by beach umbrellas, emblazoned team t-shirts and vocally spirited entourages who overwhelmed the beach to cheer on the teams. During this weekend’s event, the Main Draw field expanded from 16 to 24 teams per gender in order to meet the record demand of registrations. This was evident by Thursday’s Qualifiers featuring 84 women’s teams and 103 men’s teams.

The Friday morning crowd was abuzz about local Pacific Palisades Charter High School qualifiers, 15-year-old Miles Partain and his older brother, 17-year-old Marcus Partain, who fought their way through the Qualifiers to play against the pros Friday morning. The Partain Brothers were the youngest team to ever qualify for an AVP Main Draw. Unassuming in their size and stature, they stopped fans in their tracks as they continuously commanded a sea of applause throughout their matches. The duo nearly defeated the No. 10 ranked team of Michael Brunsting and Jeff Samuels, who came back to defeat the youngsters in three sets. The Partain brothers later fell to Avery Drost and Chase Frishman in a loud match led by each team’s entourage in two sets. However, they left a lasting first impression and a preview of what the next generation of talent is made of with powerful serves, strategic plays and an awareness of the court that rivals that of any experienced athlete.

The rowdiest and most spirited fans of the weekend unsurprisingly belonged to Rosie’s Raiders who arrived in full effect to support of No. 3 ranked Trevor Crabb and hometown hero Sean “Superman” Rosenthal vs. No. 6 team and recent San Francisco champions Ty Loomis and Maddison McKibbin. Donned in matching Superman shirts, the large group of Raiders relentlessly booed, hissed, heckled and cheered against McKibbin and Loomis, and challenged their opponents’ equally spirited entourage across the court. Crabb and Rosenthal claimed the match in two sets.

On the women’s side, top seeds Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar defeated No. 8 ranked team Jace Pardon and Brittany Tiegs, while No. 5 Janelle Allen and Jenny Kropp were defeated by No. 4 Angela Bensend and Geena Urango. Kropp made her comeback after being off the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to raising twins and a knee injury. From 2011-2012, she and her then partner, Whitney Pavlik, were dominant in the domestic pro tour, with two straight Manhattan Beach Open wins and winning the majority of the tour stops.

No. 6 Lane Carico and Alix Klineman defeated Mira Costa alumni Skylar Caputo and Kim Smith, while No. 2 ranked team Kim DiCello and Emily Stockman were upset by Maria Salgado and Caitlin Ledoux in three close sets.

Saturday attracted an early, eager crowd full of spectators hungry for action, arriving in color coded team shirts and even paragliders flew over head trying to glimpse the action.

The first Stadium Court match of the day, featured a women’s match-up of No. 1 ranked team Day and Hochevar vs. team #TexMex, No. 4 ranked Angela Bensend and Geena Urango. The match was intensely close, going three sets but Day/Hochevar took home the win.

The No. 10-ranked and new pairing of Ledoux and Salgado successfully fought off the No. 6 ranked team and Manhattan Beach natives of Carico and Klineman to earn their very first Semi-Finals spot ever. Carico and Klineman successfully stayed alive through the Contender’s Bracket to earn their own Semi-Final spot against Day and Hochevar.

On the men’s side, the heavily anticipated match of the day was brother vs. brother – No. 3 ranked Trevor Crabb and Rosie vs. the No. 2 team of Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb. With a crowd at max capacity, familial bonds fought it out on Stadium Court with Taylor Crabb taking the lead, ultimately overcoming Rosenthal’s famous defense for the win.

Earlier in the day, the No. 9 men’s duo of Tim Bomgren and Curt Toppel faced the scrappy No. 12 contenders of Piotr Marciniak and Roberto Rodriguez. Marciniak/Rodriguez pulled out the win to the roar of the crowd and earned their first-ever Semi-Final spot.

The tournament concluded four days of the world’s top beach volleyball competition with underdogs taking center stage, former partners and brothers facing off in a heated final, heckling fan groups, and overflowing fans spilling outside Stadium Court in front of the Jumbotron.

Under early Sunday morning sun, the men’s No. 8 team of Drost and Frishman stepped up on Stadium Court for their first Semi-Finals appearance against the No. 2 team of Crabb and Gibb. While Drost/Frishman were focused and tried to push a third set with the support of their entourage cladded in pink tank tops, they were no match against the more experienced Crabb/Gibb who sealed their win quickly.

In front of boisterous fans in the outer court, the No. 12 underdogs and surprise men’s contenders of Marciniak and Rodriguez gave Crabb and Rosenthal a run for their money early on in the Semi-Finals. Hermosa hometown hero Rosenthal and Crabb held steady against the newcomer charge and took the match in two sets.

The Men’s Final featured a repeat of the Saturday Quarterfinals match, an intense brother vs. brother, Crabb Fest standoff with the younger Taylor Crabb and partner Gibb vs. his older brother, Trevor Crabb and partner Rosenthal. Gibb and Rosenthal were also former partners of seven years, with two Olympics together under their belt. The history with both partnerships made for a passionate game between both teams that led to three sets, Taylor Crabb captured the competitive edge and along with Gibb took home the men’s championship in three sets.

The loudest cheers from the fans were earned not from those who laid on the hammer against their opponents, but rather from scrappy saves that deemed impossible for anyone – except for “Superman.”
Kicking off the Women’s Semi-Finals, the No. 1 duo of Day and Hochevar competed against No. 6 ranked team and Manhattan Beach natives of Carico and Klineman. In only their second-ever tournament appearance as a team, Carico/Klineman proved tough as they pushed the second set to overtime, but the steady Day/Hochevar combo eked out the win.

Back in action, the No. 4 ranked team Bensend and Urango faced off against No. 10-ranked and new pairing of Ledoux and Salgado. Each team consistently rallied, forcing the match to three sets but Bensend/Urango ultimately came out on top.

With “Em’s Entourage” in full effect, the Women’s Final found Day/Hochevar meeting Bensend/Urango across the net for the second time this tournament. This was only the fourth final appearance ever for team #TexMex and a 28th birthday present for Bensend. Both teams showed impressive effort, but Day/Hochevar showed why they are the No. 1 women’s spot, and swept the match in two sets.

The Hermosa Beach Open was an outstanding weekend and the crowds welcomed the AVP home, making it clear the AVP will be returning next season. Stop No. 7 of the 2017 AVP Pro Tour continues to the AVP Gold Series // Manhattan Beach Open from August 17-20 at the Manhattan Beach Pier. We can’t wait to see you there!