MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Friday at the Charlie Saikley 6-Man Beach Volleyball Tournament is about the party.
It’s about the costumes, the warmup routines, the celebrations, and the libations at nearby Shellback tavern.
Saturday is about the volleyball.
Most of the costumes are gone, and in its place are ringers, various national-team and beach stars who show up for the playoffs. The rule, of course, is that every individual must play at least one point on Friday in order to play on Saturday, but it’s difficult to enforce, at best.
Both open finals were both decided in exciting fashion.
Spyder/Res Ipsa won the men’s division by defeating youthful Lyon Stahl out of the winners bracket, losing the first final set 15-12, but coming back to win the double final 11-7.
On the women’s side, Serve on 2nd defeated Soho Yoga after coming out of the losers bracket, winning 15-9, 11-7.
Team WWF defeated Fonz’s Century Club to win the men’s masters division (40-plus), while Raymond Construction defeated team Goodstuff 18-16 to win the golden master’s division (50-plus).
Spyder/Res Ipsa won for the second time in three years. Res ipsa, a shortened legal term for res ipsa loquitor, or “to speak for itself,” did just that.
Their roster was certainly stacked, starting with middle hitter and former national-teamer Kris Johnson, who was a beast at the net. His 6-foot-11 frame was unstoppable at times despite attracting frequent double blocks in the middle.
“Half of this team is from Utah,” said Derran Cannon, Spyder/Res Ipsa team organizer and back row sub. “Half of it from SoCal. You have USA players, you have college players, you have pro beach players. We’ve all come together, a combination of mid-40s down to mid-20s.”
The 6-2 offense was set by FIVB competitor Casey Patterson and two-time NCAA champion UC Irvine product Chris Austin. Outside firepower was provided by the USA’s and Long Beach State alum TJ DeFalco and BYU alum Price Jarman. Opposite duties were handled by southpaw AVP champion Ed Ratledge. BYU libero Jaylen Reyes, now assistant at Nebraska, played a key role as a back row sub.
Finalist Lyon Stahl countered with plenty of youth, including UCLA All-American Micah Ma’a, UCI setter Michael Saeta, UCLA’s Oliver Martin, and Hawai’i libero Larry Tuileta.
Unusually, Spyder/Res Ipsa and Lyon Stahl both came out of the so-called pool of death Friday on court 10, featuring not only Spyder/Res Ipsa and Lyon Stahl, but Team Smack Sharkeez and Team Munch. Team Smack Sharkeez, a former multiple-year champion, returned to the tournament after a six-year absence but failed to advance to Saturday.
Down 6-4 in the double final, Spyder/Res Ipsa kept chipping away at the Lyon Stahl lead, winning seven of the last eight points to take the title.
“This is our third year in a row having to play in the finals,” Chris Austin said. “Our first year that I was a part of it, in 2016, we won, beating Rock ‘N’ Brews in a double final, so I think we have that in our blood. We get scored on one way, or we get beat one way, it usually won’t happen again. That’s been the theme of our team, but hopefully next year we can get it the first time around.”
James Kjar, of the law offices of Kjar, McKenna, and Stockalper, began sponsoring this team 10 years ago.
“I started this with one simple premise: You have to be a good guy, a good sport, and a good player, and we’ve all started a trend and we’ve kept the friendship. There are no egos, there are only guys that like each other and want to win, and this is one of the happiest moments of my life. I’ve been playing volleyball my whole life and to get this team together, see the camaraderie, the friendship we have, is fantastic. This is the reason we do it.”
On the women’s side, Serve on 2nd went a different route, coming up through the losers bracket to win. A 15-8 loss to team Horny Unicorny in the winners semifinals forced them to win five consecutive games to win the title.
The win is especially sweet for Serve on 2nd, since they lost the 2017 final to Horny Unicorny. The team is composed of beach doubles players plus women’s indoor national team outside Kelsey Robinson, including Jessica Sykora, Sheila Shaw, Lara Dykstra, McKenzie Ponnet, Agnieszka Pregowska, Tori Grafeman, Chelsea Hayes, and Jennifer Snyder.
The day started out much as last year, with them losing to Horny Unicorny in the winners 15-8 in the winners semifinals.
Serve on 2nd then went on its run, avenging its loss to Horny Unicorny in the losers-bracket finals and beating Soho Yoga twice to win it all.
“It was a very exciting double final,” Tori Grafeman said. “We came out of the losers bracket, and made it all the way up. I have to give a shout-out to McKenzie Ponnet. She was our dark horse, her first year on the team. She was a new add this year, but she was just an all-star. She dug, she served, she sided-out. She was frickin’ amazing. She honestly led us to victory.”
In the master’s 40-plus division, crowd favorites WWF took the title from Fonz’s Century Club, winning twice to earn the championship.
WWF, of course, is a team composed of players costumed as wrestling stars, including Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, etc. They dig their own posts to construct their own wrestling ring for each match.
The core of this team has played together for more than a decade, and dropped out of the open competition seven years ago.
Paul Severns, nicknamed “Tall Paul” when not masquerading as Hulk Hogan at the six man, has played in the event for 28 years, and won his first title Saturday after putting the match away with a block of Olympian Bob Samuelson.
“It was a great game,” Severns said, “They’ve had our number for the last three to four years. We knew that they were going to come out on fire, and we just had to match them. We did, came out with a quick start, and jumped on top of them.
“Masters is a little slower, it’s a little tamer, but you’re playing with your friends on both sides of the net. It’s not as fast paced, but it’s a good time.”
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