USA blanked as Brazilians Santos, Cavalcanti take p1440 Top Guns titles

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p1440 Huntington Beach Sunday 2018-Mexico-Lombardo Ontiveros
Mexico's Lombardo Ontiveros lays out for a dig in p1440 semifinal action/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — The United States was shut out Sunday at p1440 as players from Brazil, Serbia, and Germany captured the Top Guns and Young Guns titles.

Three-time Olympic Brazilian medalist Ricardo Santos won the men’s Top Gun and countrywoman Rebecca Cavalcanti took the women’s title.

In the Young Guns, Serbia’s Kathryn “Katie” Hogan and Milena Matic took the first-place women’s prize, while Brazil’s Alvaro Filho and Germany’s Alexander Walkenhorst won the men’s division.

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Ricardo Santos pounds the open crosscourt/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Aleksandrs Samoilovs, a fiery Latvian with three Olympiads of beach-volleyball experience, won the final Top Guns pool with a 3-0 record over Jeremy Casebeer, Casey Patterson, and Santos, who finished 1-2. 

Samoilovs picked Casey Patterson, while Santos chose Taylor Crabbs. 

Santos, who has gold, silver, and bronze medals (2000-2008), is still an impressive blocker with a heavy arm at age 43. Santos-Crabb prevailed in the breezy Huntington conditions 28-25.

“Taylor is the best defender in the US, and internationally, he’s one of the best.” Santos said.  “He was the best pick for this final. He’s a perfect match for my block. 

“It was a tough match against them, the wind made it much more difficult and equalized the game. In the end, our block and defense gave us the advantage.

“I knew that it would be a tough match, because Samoilovs is a great player. He’s the whole package and a great showman. I knew that it would be a great match to watch and a great match to play.”

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Brazil’s Rebecca Cavalcanti celebrates/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Cavalcanti earned the right to choose her partner in the women’s finals after having the best points record in the final pool, defeating the USA’s Kerri Walsh Jennings and Kelly Claes, and Australian Becchara Palmer. Cavalcanti, Palmer, and Walsh Jennings tied with a 2-1 record, with Cavalcanti finishing with the most points.

Cavalcanti is having the best year of her beach volleyball career after winning gold in the three-star in Qinzhou, silver in the four-star in Yangzhou, and fourth in the p1440 four-star in Las Vegas. Her partner is Ana Patricia Silva, who injured her ankle in the Las Vegas bronze medal final 

The 25-year-old, 5-foot-9 Cavalcanti went with Walsh Jennings, while second-place finisher Palmer chose Claes. Cavalcanti and Walsh won easily 28-15. 

“Kerri has a great heart and she is the best in the world,” Cavalcanti said. “I enjoyed the format a lot, I think it’s really interesting because you’re constantly playing with different partners.  You always have to find different ways to win, but the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy playing.”

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Germany’s Alexander Walkenhorst pumps up after a block/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Brazil’s Filho and Walkenhorst were united by happy chance when their partners, Santos and Alexander Huber, elected to play in the Top Gun division instead. The last-minute decision left them only one pre-tournament practice. 

Walkenhorst, a 6-9 blocker, is a seven-year veteran of the FIVB tour who earned one medal in seven tournaments this year, a bronze medal at Kish Island, Iran. Filho seems to excel in what used to be the offseason, winning the five-star FIVB Fort Lauderdale event in February 2017.

“They asked me if I’m OK with playing with Alvaro,” Walkenhorst said, “and I said, ‘He’s a world champion, so I’m pretty OK with playing with him.’ ”

The pair defeated Mexico’s Lombardo Ontiveros and Jose Rubio 18-21, 21-15, 15-11. “It was tough conditions in the finals playing the Mexican team,” Walkenhorst said. “They had some lucky shots in the first set, in my opinion, and the conditions were tough, but we were able to make a strong comeback, and now I’m more than happy.”

Filho enjoyed mixing it up in Huntington with Walkenhorst. 

“It was awesome. For the first time, a German guy, playing with a Brazilian guy.  Alex is a very nice guy, he played so well. I enjoyed this different kind of tournament, I just said to him, the first rule of this tournament, is just to enjoy and have fun. Congratulations to p1440 for making this happen, I’m very happy now, and thankful that I had the chance to play with Alex.”

Kathryn Hogan-p1440 Huntington Beach Sunday 2018-Serbia-p1440-Huntington Beach
Serbia’s Kathryn “Katie” Hogan scrambles for the ball/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Serbians Hogan and Matic upset Americans Katie Spieler and Allie Wheeler 21-16, 21-19 in the blustery conditions. The youthful pair — Hogan is 26, Matic 24 — have just dedicated themselves to professional beach volleyball. Both train and coach in Pompano Beach, Fla. Hogan is a former FIU beach star and NVL veteran, while Matic has competed on the FIVB tour since 2015, but moved from Serbia a year ago to train. 

The $14,000 first prize more than doubles the Serbians’ previous career totals, so expect to hear more from them if they continue to stay committed to beach volleyball. 

Their goal in the finals was simple. 

“We were trying to pass the ball well,” Matic said. “That was the main goal, after that, it got a little bit easier if we didn’t have to run to set it. We stayed focused, and it worked well for us.”

The pair normally split blocks, with the 6-2 Hogan taking control at the net, and the 5-10 Matic patrolling the backcourt. Sunday they split blocking duties.

“We decided to split block due to the windy conditions,” Hogan said. “On one side, the ball would tend to drift off. If we’re serving aggressively enough, I would be peeling most of the time, so we thought that would put us in better defensive position to make the next play.”

Results can be found on the p1440 website.

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