By Andrew Alexander
Kenner, La. –- The most entertaining man on the AVP circuit has victory, and dancing, on the mind, as he and partner Jake Gibb continue the quest to defend their AVP New Orleans Open title Sunday in the semifinal round against Mark Burik and Russ Marchewka.
Casey Patterson, the 35-year old, mohawked tour veteran is ready to start the 2016 AVP season off with a win, then bust out some of his signature sweet dance moves.
“If we’re playing well, I’m dancing,” Patterson said. “At the same, I respect a lot of the players, and there are certain players I won’t do it to because I know it makes them play better.”
Patterson and Gibb overcame opening set losses in Saturday matches against Theo Brunner and Sean Rosenthal, then Brad Keenan and Ty Tramblie in the quarterfinals, to advance to the final day of the AVP New Orleans Open.
“We expect ourselves to be able to play at a high level and make these guys really have to play hard to beat us,” Patterson said.
Winning would be enough for most competitors, but Patterson wants to entertain the spectators every time he steps foot on the court.
A natural showman, Patterson thrives off of entertaining the crowd during his matches.
“I love to get the crowd involved, entertain and call out guys (in the crowd),” Patterson said.
During the first set of Patterson and Gibb’s quarterfinal matchup against Keenan and Tramblie, Patterson had some fun with Tramblie’s buddy sitting in the stands.
“Brad (Keenan) aced me and (Tramblie’s buddy in the crowd says) ‘Where you at?,’ Patterson explained. “Then we side out, and I got an ace, and I’m like ‘Where you at now?’ trying to call him out, and I know his name. He just came and talked to me (after the match), and he was so fired up that I called him out.”
Patterson’s blend of fiery passion, showmanship and talent on the court make him a crowd favorite, but the 11-time AVP title winner pointed out that entertaining the crowd is something only a few players on tour have been able to pull off successfully.
“(Fellow AVP tour member) Casey Jennings is a fiery guy that has emotions and gets the crowd involved, and you remember that,” Patterson said. “People gravitate to players like that. He’s just showing his fire and love for the game, and I always wanted to have that style so that was me from then on.”
Patterson’s gravitational pull has been strong this weekend in Louisiana, as evidenced by the countless picture and autograph requests he has received from fans. Patterson obliges everyone who approaches with a smile.
Those same fans have been treated to a much-improved experience during the AVP’s second trip in Louisiana in as many years, according to Patterson.
Patterson said changes to the stadium, both aesthetically and structurally, have vastly improved the event from a player and fan perspective.
“The stadium is really cool this year, Patterson said. “It’s got a really cool vibe. It’s kind of got this layered feel with a lot room to hang and mingle and socialize. The tents on each of the three corners kind of overlook the court, and because the court is set down lower, it kind of feels like you’re playing in a gladiator pit.”
Patterson and Gibb will have to best Burik and Marchewka on Court One in order to make it back onto the “gladiator pit” inside Stadium Court, and Patterson knows the road to a repeat AVP New Orleans Open title won’t come easy Sunday.
“It’s expected for us to win where we’re playing in our careers right now, but at the same time that makes it a little harder because guys are out for blood all the time.”
The women’s bracket saw the top four seeds advance to semis for first time since the October 2013 Huntington Beach AVP. Second-seeded Misty May-Treanor-Jenny Kropp advanced via a forfeit over Lisa Fitzgerald-Lynne Galli, and a three set victory over third-seeded Amanda Dowdy-Emily Stockman (21-15, 11-21, 15-8).
May-Treanor-Kropp will next face top-seeded Kim DiCello-Kendra VanZwieten, who, after being upset in the main draw, secured their semis berth with a win against Irene Hester Pollock-Caitlin Ledoux in the contender’s bracket (21-13, 21-15).
In other women’s action fourth-seeded Angela Bensend-Geena Urango beat fifth-seeded Whitney Pavlik-Sheila Shaw (24-22, 21-16) before upsetting DiCello-VanZwieten (19-21, 21-15, 15-12). Bensend-Urango will next face Dowdy-Stockman, who beat Janelle Allen-Megan Wallin-Brockway (21-17, 21-13) in the contender’s bracket.
Gibb-Patterson beat Brunner-Rosenthal (14-21, 21-17, 15-5) and Keenan-Tramblie (26-28, 21-10, 15-7). Burik-Marchewka beat Billy Allen-Stafford Slick (18-21, 21-14, retired).
Top men’s seeds Ryan Doherty-John Mayer beat eighth-seeded brothers Brian and Tim Bomgren (20-22, 21-16, 15-9) and Burik-Marchewka (19-21, 21-17, 15-10). Doherty-Mayer play fourth-seeded brothers Taylor and Trevor Crabb, who beat Kennan-Tramblie in the contender’s bracket (21-15, 21-10).
Jeremy Casebeer’s half-white mustache is the most glorious, yet mystifying facial hair in modern day sports … Todd Rogers wins the award for farthest kicked volleyball. A noticeably frustrated Rogers ripped a volleyball out of play (and out of sight) during a match against the Crabb brothers that he and partner Robbie Page eventually lost …
May-Treanor is hopeful her brother, Brack, a New Orleans resident and restaurateur, will be in attendance at her match Sunday. “It’s fun. He doesn’t work on Sundays so hopefully him and his wife and my other brother can come out. …”
The first set of the Patterson-Gibb – Keenan-Tramblie match was the most riveting volleyball of the day. Keenan/Tramblie emerged with a 28-26 victory, but both sides showed resiliency and grit … Casey Patterson on the first set against Keenan-Tramblie: “It was kind of like who could weather the wind and the storm and battle the tough serves. It comes down to making some real great plays near the end. The (advantage) switched back and forth so many times, and they took advantage of it and kind of seized that moment. That was some really good volleyball. It was really fun to play …”
The No. 16 duo of Bauer and Fitzpatrick fought valiantly Saturday, upsetting the No. 8 duo of Day and Hinga, and finished in ninth place. Not bad for a couple of high-schoolers…
Some noise has been made about AVP players skipping New Orleans and playing in the Xiamen Open in China for Olympic qualifying reasons. Patterson on the quality of this weekend’s AVP field:
“Now, everyone is so good. Now that the AVP has been back for a few years, there’s so much more depth than there was when it was first back. Now, even if those international guys are gone, it’s still really, really hard to win a tournament. Everyone is preparing, and they can make a living off it now so they’re putting more energy into preparing and training and finding partners they play well with.”
Photo at top of Jake Gibb by Robert Beck/AVP