MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — The top two women’s seeds — Lauren Fendrick and April Ross and Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar — are in, but the remaining AVP Manhattan Beach Open semifinalists made for an interesting list of participants.
Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes are in, too, but they had to fight through the contenders bracket.
For the men, a Crabb is in, but it’s Trevor this time, and so is a team where one guy is 42 and the other is 29.
So when action starts Sunday at 8:45 am. Pacific adjacent to the Manhattan Beach Pier, top-seeded Fendrick and Ross play 15th-seeded Nicole Branagh and Brandie Wilkerson, while second-seeded Day and Hochevar face Claes and Hughes, who are seeded 23rd.
The men’s semifinals follow at 9:45 a.m. with fourth-seeded Trevor Crabb and Sean Rosenthal taking on ninth-seeded Reid Priddy and Ricardo Santos, while third-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena play sixth-seeded Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson.
The women’s final will be broadcast live on NBC at 11:30 a.m., with the men’s final at 2 p.m.
Fendrick and Ross have taken the most efficient path to the semis. They only needed one win, but it was a thrilling 21-17, 17-21, 16-14 victory over Ross and Sweat. It took 17 points after the score freeze to win it.
“That was a back-and-forth match the whole time,” Fendrick said. “There were great plays on both sides. I feel like because we weren’t comfortable in our side-out rhythm we had to grind out some plays.
“I’m super proud of how we stepped together even when we felt like we weren’t together.”
Branagh and Wilkerson had to grind out four tough wins in the contenders bracket. They beat Jenny Kropp and Heather McGuire (18-21, 21-10, 15-9), Amanda Dowdy and Irene Pollock (24-22, 21-12), Carico and Klineman (21-15, 21-12), and Kim DiCello and Emily Stockman (21-18, 21-13).
Branagh and Wilkerson, a new team for this tournament, are playing better in each round, and are gaining confidence in each round.
Day and Hochevar also had to win one match, defeating Kim DiCello and Emily Stockman 21-19, 21-18.
“As the tourney progresses we are getting more efficient and dialed into our rhythm,” Hochevar said. “Nothing else matters. The match before is over. The next match is unknown. We are real good in the moment.”
Hochevar and Day will play Hughes and Claes, who had to battle back from an early loss to Caitlin Ledoux and Maria Salgado on Friday. They have since won six matches in a row, including four on Saturday: They beat Lara Dykstra and Jace Pardon (21-14, 22-20), Betsi Flint and Kelley Larsen (21-18, 16-21, 15-12), got revenge over Ledoux and Salgado (21-14, 22-20), and Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat (21-19, 22-20).
Trevor Crabb and Rosenthal finally broke through against Crabb’s brother, Taylor, and Jake Gibb (16-21, 21-15, 15-11). At the last AVP event, in Hermosa Beach, they lost two heated matches to Gibb and Taylor, including in the final of that tournament.
“It means a lot.” Trevor said. “They got us twice in Hermosa and to lose to your brother twice obviously sucks, especially for the championship. We definitely wanted revenge and we feel like we’re still tuning things up, and getting better.”
He thinks they’re ready for Sunday.
“We’re playing some great ball this tournament and it’s nice to be on the opposite side from Phil, hopefully we’ll meet him in the finals and beat him down.”
Their opponents will be the 39-year-old Priddy and 42-year-old Santos, who were dropped into the contenders bracket by Taylor Crabb and Gibb (21-18, 21-15), but found their way back to the semifinals with wins over Brian and Tim Bomgren (21-19, 21-14), Ryan Doherty and John Hyden (21-18, 21-23, 19-17) and Billy Allen and Stafford Slick (25-23, 21-18).
The four-match schedule on Saturday was nearly too much for Santos, who needed a medical timeout for cramps against Doherty and Hyden at 17-17 in set three, but rallied to reach the semifinals.
Dalhausser and Lucena, beneficiaries of the winner’s bracket, needed only a relatively routine 21-11, 21-15 win over Allen and Slick.
Lucena acknowledged Dalhausser’s impressive serving and blocking, that never allowed Slick and Allen to get into rhythm, jumping out to an 11-1 lead in the first set.
“When Phil’s serving like that, he’s tough to beat. His blocking defense was pretty good.”
Slick and Allen would eventually settle in, and keep things close up to the technical 11-10 time-out in the second set before Dalhausser and Lucena would pull away for good.
“We knew that they would play better in the second game, they got in a rhythm and we slowed down too much,” Lucena said.
“At the time out, we were able to turn it up a gear and pull through. That’s how it works, we’re just trying to survive out here.”
Dalhausser and Lucena have also qualified for next week’s FIVB world tour finals in Hamburg.
“In the back of my mind, I’m also thinking about our 6 p.m. Sunday flight to Germany,” Lucena said. “I’m not looking forward to that. But we’ll focus on this event first and worry about that later.”
Earlier in the tournament, Dalhausser and Lucena rolled past Patterson and Brunner 21-15, 21-8. But Patterson and Brunner have since warmed up considerably and sent three teams home on Saturday, Ed Ratledge and Eric Zaun (21-16, 21-16), Jeremy Casebeer and John Mayer (22-20, 17-21, 15-10), and Taylor Crabb and Gibb (22-20, 21-13).