Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos continued to smash their way through the top seeds at the AVP New York City Open.
Saturday, they beat top-seeded Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb 21-16, 22-20 to get into one of Sunday’s semifinals, while second-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena defeated third-seeded Jeremy Casebeer and Chaim Schalk 21-15, 21-13 to get into the other.
That sets up the contenders-bracket finals, with No. 7 Tim Bomgren and Troy Field facing Casebeer and Schalk, while Crabb and Gibb play eighth-seeded Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson.
On the women side, the top seeds prevailed in straight sets as top seeds April Ross and Alix Klineman and second-seeded Sara Hughes and Summer Ross will play in Sunday’s semifinals.
Ross and Klineman won the first winners semifinal 21-14, 21-15 over No. 5 Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil. Hughes and Ross beat No. 3 Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman 21-17, 23-21.
Sunday’s contenders-bracket finals are Larsen and Stockman playing No. 4 Emily Day and Betsi Flint, and Claes and Sponcil facing sixth-seeded Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon.
Rosenthal and Santos have now pulled off three upsets in the tournament and their win over Gibb and Crabb was not without freeze drama, as they fought off two set points before closing the match when Santos jumped into the line to block Crabb.
“It was a great match, Rosenthal said on the Amazon Prime broadcast. “We played them great in Austin last week, and we had our chances. We had a good game plan today, but on top of that we took care of our side of the net. We took care of our passing, and our help sets, bettering the ball, we took care of our side pretty well.”
The conventional wisdom has been to serve Gibb, but they elected to start out serving Crabb.
“At first, it was to try Taylor. I’ve played with Jake for seven years, and everybody serves Jake, and they win and win and win. And I knew that from playing with Jake, he’s a competitor, probably the biggest competitor on this tour. We wanted to go at Taylor. He got in a little bit of a rhythm, but we got a couple, when he got into much of one we went back to Jake, and switched our game plan up.
Santos, a four-time Brazilian Olympian and one of the sport’s all-time greats, appreciates the opportunity to play domestically.
“I’ve always wanted to play on the American tour,” Santos said, “I just haven’t had the opportunity. The energy, the crowd, it still motivates me at 44 years old to come out and play, the love and the passion that the American players and fans have.”
“We’ve been joking a little bit, calling him “Thanos” (a villain from the Avengers franchise), because he’s won everything. World Championships, Olympic gold, the Brazilian tour,” Rosenthal said. “He’s never won on the AVP, so he’s missing the one stone, and we’re looking to fulfill that hopefully this year. Where we’re sitting tomorrow, we have a great chance.”
Dalhausser and Lucena defeated Casebeer and Schalk handily. Dalhausser and Lucena are in what is an unusual position for them, without an AVP tour victory in June. Previously the pair finished fifth in Huntington and third in Austin.
Dalhausser took control of the quarterfinal matchup, scoring nine blocks.
The top seeds two women’s seeds made the semifinals, a stark contrast from Austin, where the top three seeds lost in the first round. Klineman and Ross have both improved the amount of court space they cover, keeping pressure on Claes and Sponcil.
Claes and Sponcil countered by moving their sets from pin to pin, but both Ross and Klineman created enough serving pressure in the breezy conditions to take both sets handily.
“It definitely felt like we were covering a lot of court,” Ross said, “but at the same time it felt like we had to work really hard for every point we got.
“Even if we got it up on our side, it didn’t necessarily go down on their side right away, so we knew that we had to battle and battle and battle for points.
New York city marks Ross’ 100th tournament.
“It’s crazy. When I was first out here on the AVP, I was purely relying on athleticism from indoor. ‘What, you mean I only have to hit against one person? This is awesome.’ And people figure you out, you have to adjust, and then you have to have meaning behind everything you do, and you have to know why you’re doing the things that you’re doing, and I feel like at this point, I really am starting to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing on the court, and that’s a really confident feeling for me.”
Second-seeded Hughes and Ross have been globe-trotting in search of that elusive Olympic berth, currently on the fourth week of a five-week trip from Itapema to Jinjiang to Ostrava to New York to jumping on a flight Sunday evening to the four-star event in Warsaw, Poland.
“We’re just taking what we’re learning internationally and bringing it to the AVP,” Hughes said. “These tournaments are a great chance for us to work on anything and everything we need to bring to the international level and play at that level. There’s so many good teams out here so it only helps us.”
Specifically, the pair are working on closing out games consistently, Ross said.
“Last year we let a few go, but now we’re trying to just close,” she said.
Hughes and Ross had difficulty closing the second set against Larsen and Stockman as a 20-17 second set lead slipped away.
“We made some crucial errors at the end. We just came back to each other, told each other, ‘Let’s focus on the pass and the side-out game right after that.’ It’s just making less errors, being able to finish.”
Men’s contenders bracket
Tim Bomgren/Troy Field (7) vs. Jeremy Casebeer/Chaim Schalk (3)
Chase Budinger/Casey Patterson (8) vs. Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (1)
TBA vs. Sean Rosenthal/Ricardo Santos (12)
TBA vs. Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (2)
Women’s contenders bracket
Emily Day/Betsi Flint (4) vs. Kelley Larsen/Emily Stockman (3)
Karissa Cook/Jace Pardon (6) vs. Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil (5)
TBA vs. Alix Klineman/April Ross (1)
TBA vs. Sara Hughes/Summer Ross (2)