Randy Angel

Beach Sports: Pro beach volleyball stars return to sands of Southern California

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Three time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings of Manhattan Beach will be hoping for a repeat of last years Manhattan Open victory when the AVP returns to Manhattan Beach in August. Photo by Ray Vidal

Three time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings of Manhattan Beach will be hoping for a repeat of last years Manhattan Open victory when the AVP returns to Manhattan Beach in August. Photo by Ray Vidal

Although the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are two years away, professional beach volleyball players are already preparing to qualify for one of two men’s and women’s spots on the U.S. Olympic team.

The resurrection of the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) has provided a domestic tour to give players high level competition.

The fourth of seven stops on the 2014 AVP Tour will be the 54th Manhattan Beach Open, to be held Friday through Sunday, Aug. 15-17.

The most watched player will be Manhattan Beach resident Kerri Walsh Jennings, who won gold at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics with Misty May Treanor. Walsh Jenning looking for a fourth gold in Rio with new partner April Walsh.

She joined forces with Ross late last season after giving birth to her and husband a Casey Jennings’ third child.

Both Jennings are defending Manhattan Beach Open champions. Last year,, Keri won the women’s title with Whitney Pavlik and Casey partnered with Matt Fuerbringer, of Redondo Beach, to capture the men’s crown.

Walsh Jennings and Ross began the 2014 campaign by winning the first Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) World Tour event of the season in Fuzhou, China, defeating Juliana Felisberta Silva and Maria Antonelli of Brazil 21-11, 21-8.

The victory was the 47th career FIVB tournament title for Walsh Jennings, breaking a tie with Brazilian Larissa for most FIVB wins.

The Manhattan Beach Open will be filled with local talent, including Nicole Branagh (Torrance), Emily Day (Torrance), Lauren Fendrick (Hermosa Beach), Brittany Hochevar (Hermosa Beach), Tealle Hunkus (El Segundo) and Brooke Sweat (Hermosa Beach)

An up-and-coming player to watch will be Manhattan Beach’s Lane Carico. The Mira Costa alum was named the AVP Newcomer of the Year in 2013, finishing in the top 10 in all six tournaments she entered with partner Heather Hughes.

On the men’s side, Redondo Beach native Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser are one of the top teams in the U.S. Rosie’s Raiders will present to supplying vocal support.

Other local men to watch will be Tri Bourne (Palos Verdes), Braidy Halverson (Redondo Beach) and Stafford Slick (Hermosa Beach).

Another major tournament this summer will be the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball (WSOBV) in Long Beach July 22-27. The tournament was created by former AVP owner Leonard Armato last year.

The FIVB sanctioned event draws the world’s top players for a Grand Slam tournament and includes co-ed and single gender 4’s and 6’s, youth, and collegiate tournaments throughout the week. General admission if free.

Hermosa Beach will host the fifth of six professional events held by the National Volleyball League Sept. 19-21.

Founded by former AVP standout Albert Hannemann, of Hermosa Beach, the NVL integrates world-class competition with a festive, family-friendly atmosphere that celebrates the beach lifestyle.

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