SAN DIEGO — It wasn’t exactly a surprise when the top seeds came through Saturday at the Pacific Beachfest.
On the men’s side, Derek Olson and Paul Araiza took home the top prize 21-14, 21-16 with their version of “small ball”, both measure 6-foot-1.
For the women, Kelley Larsen (AVP 2015 Mason, Ohio champion) and Kelly Reeves (fifth-place finishes at AVP Huntington and San Francisco this year), aka “Team Kelly”, earned the championship 19-21, 21-17, 15-8.
Pacific Beachfest was Team Kelly’s first event together.
“Well, I heard about this tournament, and I heard it was a really fun tournament and wanted to play in it, so I gave Kelly a call to see if she wanted to play,” Larsen said. “I knew she was down in San Diego. We’re both from San Diego, so Team Kelly. I thought it had a good ring to it.”
“I do like the ring of it.” Reeves added, although the two spell their names differently, so it could have been Team Kelley.
The women’s final was a tough matchup against AVP New Orleans champion Kim DiCello and AVP stalwart Lynne Galli.
“The finals was a good match, a three setter,” Larsen said. “We played a good team, I thought we passed well and communicated well. It was a grind for sure. We fought through some good points, made some plays, and ended up on top.”
It wasn’t easy, especially the first set, where Team Kelly (or Kelley) was up 19-16, but their momentum stalled and they lost the set 21-19
“I take full credit for that,” Reeves said. “I kind of got rocked in the face, it got me off my game a little bit and got me out of rhythm for a bit. We came back in set two, didn’t let it get to us, and we answered and adjusted. We got on our pass and set grind and just started serving tough.”
Larsen added, “We just started bouncing back. After the first game we reset, forgot about that game, and moved forward. I thought we made some really good plays on defense that gave us some momentum.”
“We got them out of system,” Reeves said. ”Made some key defensive stops, which was huge for us, and then we just capitalized on it.”
The men’s final was more straightforward, as Olson/Araiza were simply more consistent on the day and controlled the match against transplanted Midwesterners Bill Kolinske and Raffe Paulis.
“I think the key was being aggressive,” Araiza said. “Having fun, and staying in the moment. We haven’t played in five days, and I think the break helped. We were fresh, loose, and eager to play. We’ve played a few events together, we’re comfortable with each other, honestly I think it’s being loose. It’s a big event, but it’s not the same pressure as a big AVP event, so you can go out, have fun, and play with the crowd a little bit. We have good chemistry, so I think all that combined is when we play our best ball.”
Regarding their version of “small ball”, Olson said: “It’s fun, for sure. It’s challenging, I feel like we have to work extra hard. It’s kind of surprising, we still get blocks, and we still force hitting errors, without having that big presence at the net. When we’re focused, I think it’s not that much of a drop off, whatever we lack in size at the net we make up for it in ball control. If we side out well we can win games.”
We asked Olson/Araiza if they were looking forward to the off-season.
“I’m looking forward to not touching a ball for a month,” Araiza said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I need a little break, and then ease back into it.”
“Yeah, I train with this guy like every day,” Olson added. “Whatever he’s doing, I’m doing as well. I don’t know, playing some basketball, staying in shape, making something out of wood. Volleyball is such a big part of my life, it’s fun to take a step back and take some time off.”