At its final tour event of the season, the AVP crowned two new champions in the shadow of the Huntington Beach Pier, Oct. 20. Theo Brunner and Nick Lucena took the $20,000 top prize in the men’s division by defeating John Hyden and Tri Bourne who were in their second AVP final in a row after losing to Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb in Santa Barbara on Sept. 27. Brooke Sweat and Jennifer Fopma, after coming up short in two finals this season, finally closed it out, defeating Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar in three sets for the women’s title.
Both Brunner/Lucena and Bourne/Hyden came into the last match of the tournament undefeated. Brunner and Lucena knocked off Patterson and Gibb, winners of the last four AVP events, in the semis, while Bourne and Hyden dispensed with the No. 8-seeded Brad Keenan and John Mayer 21-11, 21-18.
In the final, the beach rookie Brunner collected five blocks in the first game against Hyden and fellow rookie Bourne, helping his side to win 23-21. The second game, however, belonged decidedly to Bourne and Hyden, with the former USC Trojan Bourne contributing four kills and the veteran Hyden, 41, adding seven. Both men made zero errors for a combined hitting percentage of .900 and a final score of 21-7. Game three remained close throughout, but Brunner and Lucena edged out Bourne and Hyden 15-13 on a Brunner kill. The tournament win was Lucena’s first since 2010 and Brunner’s first ever.
Leading up to the men’s final, No. 2-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal went two-and-out, surprising many by losing to qualifier team Trevor Crabb and Steven VanderWerp and then to Kevin McColloch and Mark Williams in the first round of the contenders bracket. Rosenthal sat out the FIVB Sao Paulo Grand Slam the weekend before due to a back injury, and it was clear to those who saw him play in Huntington that Superman was not back to 100 percent.
Stafford Slick and Adrian Carambula came up big in Huntington, earning their third fifth-place finish of the season after losing in round one and battling back through the contenders bracket. The fifth-seeded duo won three matches in the contenders before meeting Keenan and Mayer in the match that would determine which team would make the crossover and play in the semifinals. Keenan and Mayer sent Slick and Carambula home 21-18, 20-22, 15-12.
One the women’s side, fans were surprised, and rightly so, not to see Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross in the final. Before the Huntington Beach tournament, Ross and Walsh Jennings had lost only one match in their entire partnership, to Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Maria Antonelli in the FIVB Gstaad Grand Slam back in July. But when they met Fendrick and Hochevar in the semifinals, their streak ended with a 21-15, 21-17 defeat.
One of the other big stories of the women’s tournament was the performance of Morgan Beck Miller and first-time partner Annett Davis. In the first round, Davis and Miller sent eventual champs Fopma and Sweat to the contenders bracket. Then the No. 13-seeded Davis and Miller proceeded to win their next two matches before falling to Ross and Walsh Jennings and subsequently meeting Fopma and Sweat again, this time in a contenders bracket do-or-die match. Losing to Fopma and Sweat, sending that team to the semifinals to meet Emily Day and Summer Ross, Davis and Miller took fifth and a $7,000 prize, both players highest finish of the season on the AVP.
Partnering with Rachel Wacholder Scott, Jen Kessy played in her first tournament since ending her partnership with April Ross. Unfortunately, the duo (who had also partnered for half of the 2006 season) went 0-2 for the tournament, losing to Sarah Day and Kaitlin Nielsen in round one and meeting Fopma and Sweat in the contenders bracket for their second loss, 21-17, 21-18.
When the women’s final began, right after Brunner and Lucena put away their match and well after the women’s semis where Fopma and Sweat prevented Summer Ross and Emily Day from reaching their fourth AVP final of the year, the crowd was preparing to crown yet another new duo as winners of the Huntington Beach AVP tournament; neither Fendrick and Hochevar nor Fopma and Sweat had been able to finish a tournament with a win in the finals yet this year.
In the first game, Fopma and Sweat dominated Fendrick and Hochevar, using the 5’8″ Sweat’s four aces, eight kills, and eight digs to allow their opponents only nine points. The second game featured a fired-up Hochevar and Fendrick, rallying back to win 21-15, despite Sweat’s 10 digs. The third was again Fopma and Sweat’s, with Hochevar’s three attack errors and Sweat’s three aces (including one on championship and match point) combining for a 15-9 win.