VBM’s Year-End Beach Awards

Ed Chan
Casey Patterson and April Ross earned the Most Valuable Player nod from us.

In late November, the AVP commemorated the completion of the beach season by doling out its annual year-end awards. We too would like to honor our favorite beach kings and queens who dazzled us from April to October. Keep in mind the AVP awards are limited to AVP tour performance while we took the liberty of factoring in every tournament played throughout the 2013 season, whether AVP, FIVB, NVL, NORCECA, or other.

Best Server

Phil Dalhausser
(AVP Andrei Belov)

The Thin Beast hands down doles out one of the toughest serves on tour (any of them, doesn’t matter which). Even from all the way at the back line, the 6'9" Dalhausser launches jump serves with a downward trajectory, making every serve receive like trying to score a dig.

April Ross
(AVP April Ross)

Here, here to this selection, AVP. Back in 2008, April Ross clocked the FIVB’s second-fastest serve (85.7 km/hr) and at the 2012 Olympics she boasted the fastest serve in competition at 81 km/hr. She’s been named the best server in the world twice by the FIVB, so there’s no question that she’s got all domestic competition beat.

Best Blocker

Jake Gibb
(AVP Theo Brunner)

While we were certainly impressed with rookie Brunner’s blocking performance (particularly in the AVP Huntington Beach final when he collected five blocks in just the first set), Jake Gibb really takes the blocking cake for us this year. After he shut down Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia during the World Series of Beach Volleyball final in July, he continued to dominate at the net. His blocking was essential in each of Gibb’s and partner Casey Patterson’s four AVP titles (and their two defeats of rival duo Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser).

Jen Fopma
(AVP Jen Fopma)
Gotta give it to Jen. She racked up 90 blocks on the AVP tour in the 2013 season, good for 1.18/set, the highest of any player on the women’s side. The 6'3" former middle blocker holds the all-time career hitting percentage record (.360) at Pepperdine, as well as ranking third there in blocks per set (1.20).

Best Defensive Player

Casey Jennings
(AVP John Hyden)

Jennings only mounted the podium three times in 2013 (AVP Manhattan Beach, FIVB Sao Paulo Grand Slam, NORCECA tournament in Toluca, Mexico), but he proved that he’s one of the most tenacious defenders competing in the men’s game. In the three-set Manhattan Beach Open final versus Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal, Jennings collected a ridiculous 25 digs (for comparison, Rosenthal had 18).

Whitney Pavlik
(AVP Brooke Sweat)

Depending on how you look at it, Whitney Pavlik either got the short end of the stick (picking up whatever player needed a partner each weekend because of injury or drama or scheduling conflicts) or she had one of the best opportunities available to a young beach player (playing with five of the sport’s top women in one season and earning $46,000 in prize money in the process). The former UC Irvine outside is a tenacious defender on the beach, contributing to her fourth place finish with April Ross in the Stare Jablonki FIVB World Championships and her third consecutive Manhattan Beach Open title, this year with Kerri Walsh Jennings.

Best Offensive Player

Phil Dalhausser
(AVP Casey Patterson)

Although Patterson was absolutely dominant in 2013, celebrating each boom and pow like it was the match-winner, the key to Phil’s crushing offense is his lack of errors. On the AVP tour this past season, Phil and Rosie played in three finals: Salt Lake City, Manhattan Beach, and Atlantic City. Phil hit .474 in the SLC final, collecting 11 kills and only two errors; in Manhattan Beach, Matt Fuerbringer and Casey Jennings did a good job keeping the ball on Rosie, so Phil took only 16 swings to Rosie’s 66, but he made just a single error, collecting five kills to hit .250 and finally, in the Atlantic City final versus Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb, Dalhausser swung 27 times for 18 kills and errored only three times, finishing with a .556 hitting percentage. We’ll take those odds any day.

April Ross
(AVP April Ross)
As the AVP points out, Ross collected 582 kills on its tour in 2013, more than any other woman and second only to Casey Patterson on the men’s side, who clocked in with 596. Ross’ not-so-secret weapon is her ability to move seamlessly between a hard swing and strategic placement shot, making her extra-tough to defend against.

Most Improved Player

Stafford Slick
(AVP Tri Bourne)

Stafford Slick kicked off the 2013 season with one fourth- and one fifth-place finish on the NORCECA tour, followed by a 41st in the FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam. Then, he won a NORCECA, rocketed up to 17th in the next FIVB Grand Slam he played in, and hooked up with crafty partner Adrian Carambula who helped him take three fifth-place finishes and a third on the AVP tour, ending the season as the fifth-seeded team in the AVP’s Huntington Beach Championships.

Summer Ross
(AVP Emily Day)

Since the AVP already gave Miss Day her due credit, we’re happy to pass the attention off to her partner, Summer Ross. The 21-year-old prodigy has always been talented beyond her years, but this summer she proved herself to be on equal footing with everyone on the beach, domestically and internationally. She and Day started the AVP season in the qualifiers. Even after winning the Cincinnati Open they were forced to play in the Atlantic City qualifier before working their way to the final, where they took second. After taking another second and a third in St. Petersburg and Santa Barbara, she and Day claimed their spot as the No. 2-seeded team in the Huntington Beach AVP Championships. On the FIVB tour Ross and Day took a fifth in Gstaad right before thrilling the home audience and taking fourth at the Long Beach Grand Slam.

Newcomer of the Year

Theo Brunner
(AVP Tri Bourne)

Brunner played in 14 tour events between 2006 and 2010, but he hadn’t really arrived until this year. Plucked by Nick Lucena out of the indoor national team gym, the 6'7" former UC Santa Barbara middle challenged his opponents with a ferocious jump serve and intimidating blocking skills. Together he and Lucena earned two third-place finishes, two seconds, and one epic, season-ending first-place finish in the AVP. His performance in Huntington with Lucena, defeating fellow rookie Bourne and John Hyden in the final, earned him the opportunity to play in a FIVB Grand Slam with Todd Rogers, where they finished 17th.

Lane Carico
(AVP Lane Carico)
There’s no denying this one. The stand-out Georgia State sand player and University of Miami all-time kill leader made a name for herself on tour playing her first full season with partner Heather Hughes. In the six AVP tournaments the duo played, they never finished outside the top ten. Carico also did some damage in NORCECA tournaments, playing in six total, taking three first-place finishes, two seconds, and one third-place finish.

Team of the Year

Jake Gibb & Casey Patterson
(AVP Jake Gibb & Casey Patterson)

Can’t beat four consecutive AVP titles and $134,400 collected on the FIVB tour. Oh yeah, and there was that World Series of Beach Volleyball thing where this duo took out Phil and Rosie in straight sets and then dismissed Latvians Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs in similar fashion.

Emily Day & Summer Ross
(AVP April Ross & Jen Kessy)

Absolutely the breakout team of the year as far as we’re concerned. After winning only their second AVP event together and then ending up in the semis or finals in every tournament thereafter and, of course, those fifth- and fourth-place international finishes, this was the women’s team to watch in 2013. Anyone who witnessed them picking apart three-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings and Whitney Pavlik in the AVP Cincinnati final knows why this team deserves the honor.

Most Valuable Player

Casey Patterson
(AVP Jake Gibb)
We promise we aren’t just saying this because he was our November cover boy. Casey Patterson thrilled audiences and impressed fellow players at every tour stop in 2013 by winning four AVP titles in a row with partner Jake Gibb, not to mention taking gold at the first FIVB Grand Slam he and Gibb played in. Patterson showcased that every aspect of his game is in top form. Jump serve, check. Offense, check. Defense, check. Blocking, well, that’s Jake’s job now.

April Ross
(AVP April Ross)

We tried to create an argument to nominate any other woman as MVP, just to see if we could do it, and the answer was decidedly no. April Ross clearly earned the queen of the beach honor, winning two AVP titles with partner Jen Kessy before making the switch to playing with Kerri Walsh Jennings and winning another AVP title and two FIVB Grand Slams.

Originally published in February 2014

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