AVP Huntington: Crabb-Gibb emerge from epic men’s battle, Sunday’s semis set

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Phil Dalhausser faces the Chase Budinger block/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — The AVP Huntington Beach semifinals are set and things hardly went as you might have expected for the men.

Eighth-seeded Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb will play top-seeded Taylor Crabb in Jake Gibb in one semi, while No. 7-seeded Tim Bomgren and Troy Field face sixth-seeded Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson in the other.

Three of the top four women’s teams are left as top-seeded Alix Klineman and April Ross face second-seeded Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, and No. 4-seeded Emily Day and Betsi Flint play 14th-seeded Melissa Humana-Parades and Sarah Pavan.

A photo gallery follows.

Taylor Crabb and Gibb played Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena four times over the 2018 AVP season, and on Saturday at the first tour stop in 2019, the familiar foes met again.

But this match between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds was in the in the contenders bracket, where both teams faced a win-or-go-home scenario. Last year, all four meetings were in championship finals.

Crabb and Gibb found themselves in this precarious situation after losing to Taylor’s brother Trevor Bourne in their third-round match on Friday. To make the contenders quarterfinal, they had to fight through must-win matches by beating Riley and Maddison McKibbin (21-7, 16-21, 15-8) and Billy Allen and Stafford Slick (21-18, 21-19).

Dalhausser and Lucena on the other hand, stayed in the winners bracket until Saturday morning, when the relatively new pairing of Budinger and Patterson knocked them into the contenders with a 21-18, 21-17 victory (more on Budinger and Patterson later).

It might have been in the contenders bracket, but the match felt every bit like a final, with Crabb and Gibb winning resoundly in the first 21-13, then Dalhausser and Lucena rallying for an equally dominant 21-15 victory in the second. The third set endured an extra-long side-out scoring freeze, with each team getting a chance at match point and Jake and Taylor ultimately winning 17-15, sealing the deal with three Gibb blocks in a row.

Their reward for grinding back to the crossover through the contenders? A rematch with Trevor Crabb and Bourne, the split-blocking squad which has been playing incredibly clean volleyball, not losing a set all tournament and holding every opponent under 19 points.

The other men’s semifinalist team to come through the winners bracket is Patterson and Budinger. This duo paired up in December and has played three FIVB tournaments together, where you’d have to say their results have not exactly been promising (a ninth in the The Hague, loss in the country quote in Sydney, and a qualifier exit in Doha), but in Huntington Beach, the story couldn’t be more different.

Like Trevor Crabb and Bourne, Patterson and Budinger have also yet to lose a set, sending No. 3 seed Ed Ratledge and Rafu Rodriguez to the contenders in addition to Phil and Nick. They’ll face the new partnership of Bomgren and Field in the second men’s semifinal on Sunday.

In preparation for the match with Dalhausser and Lucena, Patterson said he tried to impart to Budinger some knowledge he’s accumulated about Lucena’s offense in the many years the two men have been playing against each other on tour. Not only did Budinger put those suggestions into action, but, Patterson said, he improved upon them, adding hang time, vision, patience to the tune of eight stuff blocks.

“That shows how much of a veteran he is already,” Patterson said. “To be able to have a match like that against that team is what I saw six months ago when he was playing with Rosie, and I knew that that was a possibility.”

“Casey’s got so much knowledge playing all these players because he’s played against them so many times, so he’s a great resource to rely on,” Budinger said. “I think one thing also was our serving. We served really tough and got Nick to kind of swing blindly because he wasn’t passing, the balls were a little off the net, the sets were a little more difficult, so I think that actually helped set up the block as well.”

The serving was exceptional, especially the final serve of the match: an ace by Budinger.

“My thought was go back there and go for it because you don’t want Phil to get back there serving and get on a roll and next thing you know, you lose that set,” Budinger said. “I just went back there, swung high and used the wind a little bit and I caught the back line.”

On the women’s side, Canadians Humana-Paredes and Pavan advanced through the winners bracket to the semifinals, as did Ross and Klineman.

Humana-Paredes and Pavan had to go through Hughes and Summer Ross, who just last week the Canadians faced at the FIVB four-star event in Xiamen, China. Hughes and Ross got the international victory in straight sets to send Humana-Paredes and Pavan packing, but this time around Team Canada got redemption.

Hughes and Ross targeted Humana-Paredes, but she sided out again and again and dug up everything sent her way, finishing the match with 18 kills and 12 digs.

“Melissa played incredibly well. I’m not sure why they stayed on her so long, because her side out was absolutely unbelievable,” Pavan said. “She was very automatic and just patrolling the back court like crazy. They were getting pretty frustrated because she was touching everything. I just had to set her.”

“Sarah keeps saying that,” Humana-Paredes responded, “but a lot of that is her sets were on point. She was putting me in the right positions, giving me the right calls and we were able to stay in system because of that.”

In their winners bracket quarterfinal, Klineman and Ross knocked off Day and Flint. Both Day and Flint and Hughes and Ross turned around and won their respective crossover matches (however both went to three sets), so they will return tomorrow morning for the semifinals with Day and Flint facing Humana-Paredes and Pavan and Hughes and Ross taking on Ross-Klineman.

Click here for the men’s results and semifinals schedule. And click here for the women’s results and schedule. All the matches can be seen on Amazon Prime. The finals will be shown on NBC Sports 8 p.m. Pacific.

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