If I told you last week that a team would make it out of the qualifier (although they only had to play one round to advance), win every match in the main draw of the AVP Cincinnati Open to get to the finals and win those finals, convincingly, against a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a three-time Manhattan Beach Open champion, would you have believed me? Well, it’s not a fairy tale, it happened. All credit has to go to Emily Day and Summer Ross as they never wilted under the pressure during the finals. There was discussion in the DJ booth that at some point they would probably crack and let Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Whitney Pavlik back into the match, but that never happened. Ross and Day kept their feet on the gas, served aggressively, blocked well, played amazing defense, and it seemed liked they swung at every single set. I've never seen a team that young, without years of experience together, in their first finals ever on the AVP not succumb to the pressure of the moment. It was a fun match to be a part of and I hope the fans appreciated what they witnessed.
Speaking of the Cincinnati fans, they have never disappointed me in all the years the AVP has stopped there. Not only do the Ohioans show up in force, but fans travel to this event from Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. Even though it was a hot and humid weekend, especially for this California DJ, their support never faltered. The stands may not have been completely full for the finals on Monday (a 6 p.m. start for the first final was hard for some people to stick around for), the fans that were there were loud and proud. They danced and clapped along to all of my music and the highlight for me was when everyone sang the O-H-I-O chant during "Hang on Sloopy" by The McCoys. I got goosebumps during the song and again as I typed this sentence. Having a thousand plus fans all participating is a pretty good adrenaline rush, and I hope some of that energy came across during the TV broadcast.
It’s moments like that with “Hang on Sloopy,” which will stick with me years after I'm done DJing volleyball events, and this particular event definitely had some of those moments during and after the matches. Priscilla Lima, known for being one of the best dancers on tour, showed off some of her skills before her last match Sunday night while she warmed up. Let’s say this, she can drop it like it's hot when the right music is on. And she did. You’re welcome, Ohio.
Having moments like that with the players are the memories I will cherish. Whether it’s during the actual events, like with Priscilla or playing a scaled down version of Ace with April Ross, Whitney Pavlik, Jennifer Fopma, Emily Day, and Summer Ross under the lights after the tournament (they all played with only one hand/arm, but I was allowed to play with two. I'm definitely waaaaay better with two hands and they are all waaaaay better than me just using one).
If you read my recap of the Manhattan Beach Open last week, you may recall me mentioning that I heard a rumor that Brittany Hochevar had a one-piece bathing suit and was prepared to wear it. It didn't happen at the MBO, but she did confirm that she had one with her. Sunday evening in Cincinnati, as Britt was about to leave for the hotel, she told me if she played on Stadium Court the next day she had a surprise for me. I thought maybe she was going to bake me cookies or bust out a cool dance move during her introduction.
Fortunately for me, and everyone else for that matter, Britt and Lauren Fendrick were scheduled to be the first match on stadium court at noon on Monday. I noticed that Britt warmed up for the match with her tank top and shorts on, which isn't that unusual, but since no freshly baked cookies showed up in my DJ booth, I began to wonder if the surprise could possibly be the one-piece. I got the team’s intro music ready, hit play and was listening to the announcer (Jim Arico, who was pulled out of retirement for this event) welcome the crowd and introduce the teams. When I finally looked back at the court, I saw one of the greatest things I've ever witnessed during my career DJing volleyball. Not only was Britt sporting a purple one-piece suit, but Lauren had a matching teal one-piece. Not only did they wear them, they rocked them. Not everyone can pull off a one-piece bathing suit, I know I can't, but these ladies did and I have so much respect for them for doing it. Not sure if they noticed me playing “RESPECT” by Aretha Franklin after that match, but it was specifically for them. Nicely done, ladies.
The Cincinnati Open delivered once again. The fans were fantastic as always and they got to witness amazing volleyball. Speaking of amazing volleyball, did I even mention that Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson won? Just in case you haven’t noticed, Jake and Casey have become one of the best teams in the world, seemingly overnight and also one of the most entertaining. If you haven’t seen one of their matches in person, put that on your bucket list right next to making a trip to Mason, Ohio, for the Cincinnati Open next year. The Linder Family Tennis Center is a favorite tour stop for the players and this DJ, and it will be one of yours if you haven’t already attended it in person.