Round one of the smart AVP Championship in Huntington Beach, Calif., resulted in various surprises for the women. Jen Kessy played in her first AVP tournament since splitting with longtime partner April Ross, choosing to make her debut with Rachel Wacholder Scott. Unfortunately for the duo, they were upset right away by Sarah Day and Kaitlin Nielsen 21-17, 21-23, 15-13. Annett Davis and Morgan Miller also managed a first round upset, sending Jennifer Fopma and Brooke Sweat to the contenders’ bracket with a close three-set match. Kessy and Wacholder Scott continued to receive only bad luck, as they were then forced to play Fopma and Sweat, losing 21-17, 21-18, and ending their tournament.
Dianne DeNecochea, at 45 the oldest woman in the draw, had a good showing with partner Raquel Ferreira, beating Angie Akers and Priscilla Lima in the first round before being sent to the contenders’ bracket by April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings. The duo eventually earned a seventh, taking home $5,000.
By the time the final rolled around Sunday evening, fans knew they would be seeing a new team win a title as Fopma and Sweat had fought their way out of the contenders’ bracket to meet Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar who did the same. Both teams had been coming oh-so-close all season, taking a handful of seconds, thirds, and fourths but never the top spot. Fopma and Sweat showed their dominance in the first set, with Sweat digging almost everything Fendrick or Hochevar put over the net and even tallying four aces. The second game was much closer with Fendrick and Hochevar pulling away for the 21-15 win, but ultimately Fopma and Sweat took the third 15-9, earning the title of AVP Champions and the $20,000 check.
The men’s tournament started out with some excitement as well. In the first round, Pedro Brazao and Steve Grotowski pulled off the upset to send fifth-seed Adrian Carambula and Stafford Slick to the contenders’ bracket. However, Slick and Carambula didn’t let this early defeat ruin their weekend as they went on to win three straight matches and earn their spot in the contenders’ bracket finals (where they were eliminated thanks to tough playing by Brad Keenan and John Mayer).
But the biggest upset of the tournament came in the first match on stadium court. Trevor Crabb and Steven VanderWerp came out of the qualifier and were slated to play No. 2 seeds Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal. Much to everyone’s surprise Crabb and VanderWerp took game one 21-15 and maintained their dominance with a 21-18 win in game two. Dalhausser and Rosenthal then met Kevin McColloch and Mark Williams in the contenders’ bracket, a match which they lost 13-21, 21-17, 15-13, to finish the tournament two-and-out. Rosenthal, who did not travel to Brazil for the FIVB Sao Paulo Grand Slam the weekend before because of a back injury is perhaps not yet back to 100 percent. Dalhausser and Rosenthal also did not travel to China for the final FIVB Grand Slam of the year in Xiamen.
First-seeded Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb also suffered from and unexpected loss, although theirs came in round two to Brad Keenan and John Mayer. Like Slick and Carambula, they stormed their way through the contenders’ bracket, winning three straight matches to make the crossover and play it the semifinals, which they lost to Theo Brunner and Nick Lucena, ending their and their fans’ hopes for five consecutive AVP titles.
John Hyden and young partner Tri Bourne had another excellent weekend, advancing to the final for the second AVP tournament in a row. The duo didn’t lose a game until the final where they dropped the first set versus Brunner and Lucena before taking the second 21-7. Brunner and Lucena recovered quickly to win the third set and the match 15-13, taking their first title of the year and Brunner’s first AVP title ever.