HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — Can fifth-seeded Ed Ratledge and Rafu Rodriguez repeat? The opportunity is there, since the pair that won AVP San Francisco is in Sunday’s men’s semifinals of the AVP Hermosa Beach Open.
They’ll play third-seeded Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty in one semi, while top-seeded Theo Brunner and John Hyden will play second-seeded Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb in the other.
The women’s semifinals pit top-seeded Sara Hughes and Summer Ross against Hughes’ former partner, second-seeded Kelly Claes, and Brittany Hochevar, while third-seeded Alix Klineman and April Ross take on fourth-seeded Caitlin Ledoux and Geena Urango.
Action begin at 9:15 a.m. Pacific Sunday and will be broadcast on Amazon Prime. The NBC Sports showing of the finals is at 9 p.m. Pacific.
Saturday’s action had plenty of twists and turns in the heat and deep sand of Hermosa, but when it was all said and done, the men’s semifinalists are the 1-2-3-5 seeds and the women’s are the 1-2-3-4. That includes Brunner and Hyden, who had to bounce back after a 14-21, 22-20, 15-13 loss to Ratledge and Rodriguez in the winners bracket.
“It was a super-slow start by us. It’s really difficult conditions,” Rodriguez said. “The wind comes in the stadium, it swirls around, so you have to constantly, in the moment, read what’s going on. It’s hot out here, they came out really strong, I always praise my partner, but today I have to praise him even more. He got us out of that hole, he brought back the energy.”
The 41-year-old Ratledge, of course, won his first event in San Francisco after competing on the tour for 18 years.
“Ed can make digs, get kills, hit on two, but he needs my production,” Rodriguez said. “My help. In that moment, I kind of woke up and started doing my thing a little bit better.
VBM contributor Rob Espero video interviewed Rafu immediately after the match:
Brunner and Hyden came back and beat Phil Dalhausser and Jason Lochhead 23-21, 21-10 in the contenders bracket to get into the semis. Lochhhead, the coach of Dalhausser and Lucena, filled in for the ailing Lucena, who in turn served as coach.
Espero caught up with the “coach” after:
Defending-champions Gibb and Crabb advanced by sending Allen and Doherty to the contenders bracket 21-16, 21-18.
“It was a big win for us, especially because we down big early, I think 7-2,” Gibb said. “It was a big deficit to come back from. My partner just played super-steady. Hermosa Beach, in my opinion, has the best fans in the world, and to be able to come back and play tomorrow, on Sunday, in front of the Hermosa Beach fans, is something really special.
“It’s hard to describe the fans around the world until you come back to Hermosa Beach. You feel the energy behind it, you feel it because the people understand beach volleyball. They understand great plays. There’s nothing more frustrating than traveling around the world, making a great play, to a crowd that’s, ‘I don’t know, I guess that was pretty good.’ They understand the tough digs, the things that we work hard at.”
Claes and Hochevar had to battle back through the contenders bracket after losing to Klineman and Ross 17-21, 21-15, 15-13.
“It was actually one of the most fun games I’ve played in a while,” Klineman said. “There were a lot of rallies, we both had things that were working for us. We just had to stay patient, we had to go for every single ball, literally until it hit the sand, and it was fun to come out on top.”
Claes and Hochevar got into the semis with a 21-16, 21-13 win over Karissa Cook and Katie Spieler, setting up the Hughes-Claes battle. Hughes and Ross advanced with a 21-17, 21-18 win over Ledoux and Urango.
“I think the big adjustment that Summer and I made was just going for our serves,” said Hughes, who practices at Hermosa Beach with Ross. “We know they’re great players, so our goal was to get them out of system and put them into that scramble play.”
Rob Espero interviewed Hughes and Ross after their quarterfinal win:
Ledoux and Urango rebounded by beating Nicole Branagh and Allie Wheeler 21-19, 21-17 to get into the semis.
Enjoy these photos from VolleyballMag.com photo editor Ed Chan and contributors Jim Wolf and Allen Szto: