Jen Kessy and Emily Day Win First AVP Title as Partners

Ryan Doherty reaches over the net and finds Jake Gibb's arm instead of the ball in the men's final.

Emily Day and Jen Kessythe names arent new to those who follow beach volleyball. Day qualified for her first AVP tournament in 2007 and won the 2013 Cincinnati Open title with Summer Ross. Kessy played in the 2012 Olympics with April Ross and brought home a silver medal, and she’s won 14 titles on the AVP.

Well, make that 15.

Today, under the blazing, New York City sun, with the glimmering skyline serving as their backdrop, Day and Kessy played two marathon matches to defeat first the newcomers Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes in the semis and then take down Nicole Branagh and Jenny Kropp in the final.

Kessy and Day won the first set of the final, but just barely, snagging the victory 24-22. Then in set two, Branagh and Kropp, who defeated the tournament No. 1 seeds April Ross and Jen Fopma yesterday to advance to the semifinals, came out determined not to make it easy for Kessy and Day. And though the set was never out of Kessy and Day’s reach, Branagh and Kropp closed out the set 21-19.

[It was] just a couple little sideout things, said Kessy of the second-set loss. Emily was being aggressive and Jenny made some awesome block moves and Nicole made a couple great digs. [Emily] wasnt making errors, they were just making good plays.

Moving into set three, it looked like Kessy and Day, who formed their partnership before the start of the 2015 season and have therefore played together much more than Branagh and Kropp who have only been training together for a few weeks, would use their more well-formed partner bond to surge ahead to the victory. They held the lead throughout most of the set, but right at the end when it looked like a guaranteed Kessy-Day victory, Branagh and Kropp fought back. They dismissed match point after match point, scoring blocks and forcing errors and picking up impossible digs. But Kessy and Day wouldnt let up either. They even staved off a match point opportunity for Branagh and Kropp. At 22-21, Kessy and Day leading, Jen Kessy launched a serve into the wind and scored an ace to end the match and win the title.

Kessy, exhausted after playing a three-set semifinal match this morning in which one set went to 30-28 and battling through this most epic of finals, fell to her knees.

This is my first win after having a baby, first win with Emily, going into an integral part of the season for us, and Im elated, said Kessy. So happy.

After the champagne shower, the trophy ceremony, and plenty of photographs and autographs, Kessy and Day left Manhattan’s Pier 25 and headed straight to the airport to catch their flights to Japan for the Yokohama Grand Slam. Day had a flight booked at 6 p.m., which she missed to finish out the final. Kessy’s flight, which leaves at 8 p.m., arrives in Japan at 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday and the duo will play their first match Wednesday morning.

It is a traveling circus to the best degree, said Kessy. I do it because I love it. It’s tough but it’s amazing.

Although theyre likely still upset with the final scoreline, Branagh and Kropp can be proud of their showing at the AVP New York City Open as well. Playing in their first tournament together, and only Kropp’s third tournament back on the beach after welcoming twins into the family following the 2012 season, they beat the No. 1 seeds and were within a point of winning the title.

Although Kropp admitted she hasnt had a chance to give it a lot of thought, she and Branagh plan on sticking together. Unless April calls up Nicole, she said. I wouldnt be surprised if she left me [then]. That’s how it goes. But we decided to play together and were both on the same page, we both have kids and we like playing together.

Earlier in the day, Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb secured their second AVP title of the year and their 10th domestic title as partners. They faced John Mayer and Ryan Doherty in the final after toppling Trevor Crabb and Ty Tramblie in the semis.

You wouldnt know it from the final scoreline, but Gibb and Patterson came out slow in set one. They started on the bad side with the wind at their backs and their sets kept drifting toward the net and into the gigantic block set by the 7-foot-1 Doherty. At the first switch, Mayer and Doherty led 6-1.

The best thing that Ryan does is reach over the net, right? said Patterson, looking back on the way he and his partner kicked off the match. On two of those swings before the first side change where they were up 6-1, he literally blocked them into my hand as I was swinging because he was reaching so far over. We just made an adjustment after that and started setting each other off and making the court a little bit bigger again.

Though they were able to pick up their play and close the gap somewhat, the five point hole proved to be too much to overcome, and Mayer and Doherty won the first set 21-19.

Ever since that first run, we scored a lot of points, said Patterson. I scored I think three aces or something in a row and Jake got a bunch of blocks and we sided out really well and from then on we played a really good set, but we gave them a six point advantage. So that was kind of our mentality going into the second, like let’s not go down 6-1 and let’s see what happens here. We may win this game.

And in the second set, they didnt give up any runs. The opposite, in fact: they made runs, never allowing Doherty and Mayer to get ahold of the momentum, though they were able to close the gap to only one point before Patterson and Gibb surged ahead again and eventually won the set 21-15.

In the tiebreaker, Doherty and Mayer refused to go down easy and even had a one-point lead at the 15-point side switch. Patterson and Gibb scored a few in a row to claim a 10-9 lead, but Doherty scored a block and he and Mayer managed to put together some scrappy plays to take the advantage back 11-10. Ultimately, the ball fell Gibb and Patterson’s way three more times than it fell Doherty and Mayer’s way, and the two men in their third season as partners took the deciding set 15-12.

Tomorrow, theyll head to Japan for the Yokohama Grand Slam where theyll join their fellow countrymen Theo Brunner and Nick Lucena, Tri Bourne and John Hyden, and Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser who all chose to sit out the AVP New York City stop in order to have more time to rest and train before the international event in Japan.

Patterson, though, was thankful for the opportunity to play in New York. It’s such a rad city, he said. And the view is so cool. Really good energy. A lot of times we say that about every stop because we want every stop to be so successful, but New York brings a really cool vibe. It’s a special place. It definitely affects the feeling on the court.

Next up for the AVP tour is Seattle, August 7-9.


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