Randy Angel

MB Open celebrates 58 years of beach volleyball, increases field

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Casey Patterson, Jake Gibb, Brittany Hochevar and Emily Day will be honored in a plaque ceremony Thursday afternoon on the Manhattan Beach Pier. Photo by Ray Vidal

by Randy Angel

Beginning as an amateur event in 1960, the Manhattan Beach Open has grown to become one of the most prestigious tournament in the sport. It is often called the “Granddaddy,” the “Super Bowl” or  the “Wimbledon” of Beach Volleyball.

This year’s competition, presented by Acer, features an increased Main Draw of 32 teams per gender. Many of the top US teams are returning from playing overseas on the International Federation of Volleyball tour (FIVB) to compete.

The tournament is the second of three Gold Series events on the AVP tour, joining New York and Chicago (Aug. 31-Sept.3).

As part of the Gold Series, the Manhattan Beach Open will feature elevated tour points earned and an increase from $150,000 to $225,000 in prize money.

Competition begins Thursday, Aug. 17 with Qualifying Rounds, followed by Main Draw opening rounds on Friday. Elimination rounds are Saturday and semifinals and finals are on Sunday. Matches begin at 8 a.m. and general admission is free.

Along with action on the courts on Thursday, three first-time MB Open winners will have bronze plaques bearing their names placed among the greats of the games on the Volleyball Walk of Fame.

Emily Day, Brittany Hochevar and Casey Patterson will join three-time winner Jake Gibb in a dedication ceremony to honor the 2016 Manhattan Beach Open champions on top of the pier at 3 p.m.

Emily Day celebrates winning the 2016 Manhattan Beach Open with partner Brittany Hochevar. The Hermosa Beach residents are coming off a championship at the Hermosa Beach Open. Photo by Ray Vidal

“Winning the Manhattan Beach Open has always been a goal of mine, so this is the highlight of my career,” Day said after winning the 2016 title. “It’s an amazing feeling to be with the other elite players. I’m very honored.”

Hermosa Beach residents Day and Hochevar are coming off a championship at the AVP Hermosa Beach Open on July 23 but will find a stiff challenge by Lauren Fendrick (Hermosa Beach) and April Ross.

Seeded 14th at the FIVB World Championships in Vienna, Austria (July 28-Aug. 6), Fendrick and Ross reached the championship match where they fell to the defending Olympic gold medalists from Germany 19-21, 21-16, 15-11.

Ross is a two-time winner at the MB Open, winning titles in 2014 with Kerri Walsh Jennings and in 2015 with Jennifer Fopma.

Fendrick (Hermosa Beach) seeks her first MB Open crown after having four top-three finishes in the last five years.

Other US women’s teams returning from the World Championships are Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat and recent USC grads Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes.

Gibb won the men’s title at the Hermosa Open with new partner Taylor Crabb. He won the MB Open in 2005 with  Stein Metzger, in 2009 with Sean Rosenthal and again last year with Patterson.

An elder statesman on the AVP tour, the 41-year-old Gibb has taken Redondo Beach resident Taylor Crabb, 25, under his wing.

Crabb placed third in last year’s MB Open with brother Trenor Crabb, now partnering with local favorite Sean Rosenthal.

“Jake has been an unbelievable mentor, friend, partner, while leading leading our team and taking charge at key moments during games and tournaments,” Taylor Crabb said. “One thing that really stands out is his ability to come to practice every single day wanting to get better, even though he’s done everything you could dream of in a volleyball career. This guy is a work horse. For me, a 25 year old, seeing him still come in, hungry and push himself everyday is really motivating.”

Phil Dalhausser (Redondo Beach) has won five MB Open titles, his latest coming in 2015 with Nick Lucena. The duo are coming off a disappointing performance at the FIVB World Championships when the third seeds barely escaped with a win against 35th-seeded Australia then lost to No. 6 Russia 15-21, 18-21 in the quarterfinals.

Other US men’s teams qualifying for the World Champions were Ryan Doherty (Hermosa Beach)/John Hyden and Theo Brunner (Torrance)/Casey Patterson.

The MB Open will also include other events. On Friday, following her 5:30 p.m. match (approximately 6:15 p.m.), two-time Olympic medalist April Ross will meet with more than 30 local high school volleyball players thanking them for their support of the Side-Out Foundation, a national charity that funds research and clinical trials for Stage Four Metastatic Breast Cancer.

After a nine-year fight, the disease took the life of Ross’ mother Marjorie in 2001.

During a match after a crucial point or big breaks occurs, April can be seen pounding her chest twice — once for her mother and secondly for God.

California high school, college and club teams have raise $802,647 through 529 Dig Pink events.

Mira Costa High School raised $6,875 in its first year by hosting a Dig Pink event. Downey High School has generated $55,000 in six years and Torrance High School has joined the effort.

Saturday and Sunday will feature the AVPFirst Beach Club Challenge and on Sunday, a 10U Pairs Showcase will take place.

The Hermosa Beach-based Endless Summer Volleyball Club will compete in the girls 16U division local players Ava Kirunchyk (Hermosa Beach) and Natalie Myszkowski (Manhattan Beach).

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