Heading down to St. Petersburg last weekend to kick off my 11th year as the AVP tour’s official DJ, I felt like I had some unfinished business to take care of. Last year, if you recall, a storm hit the St. Pete event halfway through the men's final, preventing the tournament from concluding as scheduled. A couple weeks later, the men finished their final prior to the Santa Barbara event, but the women never settled it on the court, instead choosing to call it a draw and split the prize money and points.
This year, when my flight got rerouted through Fort Myers due to inclement weather, I felt a little nervous, but as it turned out, I had nothing to be worried about. Minus a minor weather delay on Saturday evening, the St. Pete stop concluded with no issues and the fans were treated to two three-set matches in the finals and the crowning of a first time AVP champion.
Heading into the tournament, Brad Keenan had finished second eight times on the AVP. He was beginning to remind me of Casey Jennings and Matt Fuerbringer, who made seven finals together before finally getting to pop the champagne. But in St. Pete, he and his partner John Mayer ended the second-place curse.
Brad’s his first victory on tour certainly wasn’t easy, as he and John found themselves faced with the tournament’s No.1-seeded team of two-time MVP Jake Gibb and 2013 Best Offensive Player Casey Patterson in the final. From the beginning, Jake and Casey targeted Brad with their serves, forcing him to earn most of the points for team Keenan-Mayer, but when the Pepperdine alum got behind the service line, the weather conditions were in his favor as he launched his jump serve into the wind, finishing the weekend with the most aces overall (14 in 16 games) and second only to Phil Dalhausser in ace percentage per game (Phil 1.22; Brad 0.88).
However, it was John, ranked second in aces (13 in 16 games) and third in ace percentage per game (0.81), who had the biggest ace of the weekend. Up 15-14 in the third game, John line up and ripped his jump serve to Jake Gibb’s right side for ace No. 13 and the match. The win was John’s second on tour, his first in San Diego in 2009 with Jeff Nygaard.
I’m happy that Brad got to taste victory, and I’m sure the rest of the players are as well. Jake and Casey may not be thrilled, since it came at their expense, but I’m sure they graciously welcomed him to the victors’ club.
On the women’s side, it seemed like Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross were going to cruise to their second AVP victory as a team, as until the final, no one scored more than 16 points against them. That’s when they came up against Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat. Lauren and Brooke came through the winners’ bracket as well but didn’t have to play their semifinal match as their opponents, Brittany Hochevar and Lane Carico, had to forfeit due to an injury. We should pause here to congratulate Lane for making the first semifinal of her young career: Bravo! Playing one less match in the Florida heat seemed to help Lauren and Brooke, and they won the first game 21-19. They looked fresh, energized, and ready to go from the first serve of the match.
Lauren and Brooke alerted everyone they will be a team to be reckoned with this season, but April, with an ace serve for the match, and Kerri won the title with a 15-11 score in the third.
I know I don’t have control over who wins and who loses, but I’m sure Brooke can shift some of the blame towards me. Earlier in the tournament she requested country music, and I basically told her no, in a nice way, of course. I’m not a fan of most country music, but I will admit that “Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr. is one of my favorite songs. I’m not sure why, as I’m the furthest thing from a country boy, but it strikes a chord with me. I just didn’t think the fans or other players would appreciate country music while they were enjoying the matches or trying to sideout. And just to give you a glimpse into what a dark and devious person Brooke is (said with a sarcastic tone), she employed the cutest little girl to come up to me and ask me to play country music. Obviously at that point I felt obligated to do it, but when I looked at the limited supply of country music I had on my computer, I realized that none of them were upbeat enough to play at a sporting event. Now, not only does Brooke blame me for not winning the tournament, but a three-year-old little girl hates me too.
So, with the AVP’s next stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 3-6, I hope all the fans and players are ready to hear nothing but country music for Fourth of July weekend. I can’t go to my grave knowing I disappointed a three year old.
See you on the beach.