Fans flock to watch local players win at AVP Hermosa Beach Open
by Randy Angel
Whether it was inside the stadium or surrounding an outside court, fans converged on the sand last weekend to support their favorite players competing in the first AVP Hermosa Beach Open in seven years.
Adding to the excitement for the estimated 48,000 fans attending the event was the rule change adopted this year — on match point, points are changed from rally to old-school side-out scoring (must serve to gain a point) giving trailing teams a better chance for a comeback.
In a rematch of quarterfinal competition, Redondo Beach resident Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb defeated local favorite Sean Rosenthal and Trenor Crabb 21-16, 17-21, 15-11 in a thrilling championship match that not only pitted brother against brother, but former teammates and Olympic partners Rosenthal and Gibb.
Rosenthal was supported by his followers, known as Rosie’s Raiders, whose raucous vocal support was aided by air horns.
Dropping into the Contender’s Bracket, the third-seeded team of Rosenthal and Crabb beat Jeremy Casebeer and John Mayer to reach the semifinals when they defeated Piotr Marciniak and Roberto Rodriguez setting up the opportunity to avenge their earlier 21-19, 21-16 loss to second-seeded Crabb and Gibb.
“Both matches were unbelievable, not just because it was against my brother but just the energy from the fans was unreal,” Taylor Crabb said. “To beat a team twice in a tournament in any sport is tough to do and we knew the second time around was going to be a lot harder. (Coach) Marcio Sicoli gave us a great game plan for both games which helped a lot.”
The win marked the 29th AVP championship for the 41-year-old Gibb but first in Hermosa Beach. For Taylor Crabb, 25, it was his second AVP title after the duo claimed the New York Open title six weeks ago.
The victory celebration was short-lived with top players heading to Austria to compete in the FIVB World Championships July 28 – Aug. 6.
“We will definitely use this momentum for Worlds,” Crabb added. “I thought we played very consistent through the whole weekend which is a great feeling going into the biggest tournament in the world. We will look at everything we did right and wrong from this weekend as we prepare for our first game on Saturday.”
The top-seeded team of local players Billy Allen (Redondo Beach) and Stafford Slick (Hermosa Beach) had a disappointing 7th-place finish. But eighth-seeded Avery Drost (Manhattan Beach) and Chase Frishman (Laguna Niguel) placed 3rd while ninth-seeded Curt Toppel (Manhattan Beach) and Tim Bomgren (Golden Valley, Minn.) finished in 5th place.
In women’s competition, the top-seeded team of Hermosa Beach residents Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar defeated fourth-seeded Angela Bensend and Geena Urango, aka Team TexMex, 21-17, 21-13 to claim the crown going undefeated throughout the weekend.
Comprised of approximately 50 fans, Em’s Entourage lent vocal support for Day, a former indoor volleyball standout at West Torrance High School and Loyola Marymount University.
“In the last few years, I’ve been begging the AVP to return to Hermosa Beach, so it was so exciting to play at home in front of family, friends and former teammates,” Day said. “It’s difficult to win and repeat but we’re looking forward to the Manhattan Beach Open and earning a plaque on the pier. We know everyone will be gunning for us, including players such as April Ross, Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat who were competing internationally last weekend.”
The win was Hochevar’s fourth AVP Tour title and second this season with Day. They won the season-opening tournament at Huntington Beach.
Day and Hochevar reached the championship match after defeating former Mira Costa High School teammates Lane Carico and Alix Klineman 21-17, 25-23 in the semifinals..
Seeded sixth, Carico and Klineman were playing in only their second tournament together and finished in 5th place after battling out of the Contender’s bracket with a 21-15, 21-18 win over the other 5th-place team of Redondo Beach residents Janelle Allen and Jenny Kropp.
Seventh-place finishes went to eighth-seeded Jace Pardon (Manhattan Beach)/Brittany Tiegs (Stuart, Fla.) and the team of Corinne Quiggle (Manhattan Beach) and Brittany Howard (Los Altos) who reached the 24-team Main Draw with a 20th-seed after winning three matches in the Qualifier’s Bracket.
The seventh stop on the AVP Pro Tour and second of three Gold Series tournaments will be the Manhattan Beach Open, Aug. 17-20, at the Manhattan Beach Pier. The final stop will be the Gold Series Championship in Chicago Aug. 31 – Sept. 3.
The AVP is comprised of four divisions: AVP Academy, AVPNext, the AVP Pro Tour and its non-profit 501(c)3 organization, AVPFirst, which held its National Championships on the outer courts in Hermosa Beach last weekend.
The South Bay produced many players finishing in the top three of AVPFirst competition.
In the Boys 12U division, Jason Walmer Manhattan Beach)/Jensen Fiskin (Costa Mesa) placed second and the Manhattan Beach duo of Victor Loiola and Jett Bathurst finished third.
In boys 18U competition, Luke Grafton (Hermosa Beach)/Ale Kormeluk (Newport Beach) finished second ahead of Tim Brewster (Manhattan Beach)/Brett Sheward (Newport Beach).
In the highly=competitive Girls 18U division, Presley Forbes (Manhattan Beach)/Dani Barton (Utah) placed third.
The team of Mele Faiva Corral-Blagojevich (Lawndale) and Malyssa Cawa (Rancho Palos Verdes) captured gold in the Girls 12U division finishing ahead of the runner-up team of Jaylen Clark (Manhattan Beach)/Finley Rollins (San Pedro) and Ella Gray (Redondo Beach)/London Wijay (Northridge).
Placing second in the Girls 14U division was the South Bay tandem of Ava Kirunchyk (Hermosa Beach)/Natalie Myskowski (Manhattan Beach). Finishing third was the team of Eden McCoy (Manhattan Beach)/Tatiana Rusich (Tustin).
For more information, visit avp.com.
by Randy Angel