Switch pays off for May-Treanor, Branagh at Long Beach Open
by Randy Angel
It had only been six tournaments since Misty May-Treanor had won a championship on the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) NIVEA Tour, but it must have felt like a season ago when she and partner Nicole Branagh were victorious at the tour’s opening event in Ft. Lauderdale.
After all, the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist is not accustomed to losing and, after a disappointing finish in Hermosa Beach where she and Branagh failed to reach the semifinals for the first time this season, something needed to be changed.
A switch by May-Treanor to the left side, leaving Branagh in her natural position on the right side, paid off for the second-seeded team who captured the Long Beach Open Sunday with a 21-16, 21-19 win over third-seeded Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan.
“I’m just more comfortable playing on that side,” said Branagh, a resident of Torrance. “It just helps me take some pressure off since I’m blocking a little more. Misty has been amazing. We’ve been working hard and staying focused on what our goals are as a team. We’re just getting better every week.”
It was May-Treanor’s third Long Beach Open title, winning in 2007 and 2008 with partner Kerri Walsh.
“It feels good. It puts a smile on our faces,” said May-Treanor, who led Long Beach State to an NCAA volleyball championship in 1998. “I went to school here and (I) have a house in the city. I love this city, the people, the fans. I love playing in front of a home crowd.”
With Jennifer Kessy and April Ross (winners of four AVP events) competing internationally in Marseille, France last weekend, Elaine Youngs and Rachel Scott held the top seed in Long Beach but were eliminated by Davis and Johnson Jordan 21-19, 13-21, 18-16 in the semifinals. Though losing the match, Angie Akers and Tyra Turner took May-Treanor and Branagh to three games in the semifinals.
On the men’s side, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers rebounded from a first-game loss to capture their fifth straight AVP tournament, knocking off second-seeded Sean Scott and John Hyden 17-21, 21-17, 15-6. The win increased Dalhausser and Rogers’ consecutive match winning streak to 34.
“We’re really motivated this year, particularly against these guys (Hyden and Scott) because they beat us more than we beat them in finals last year,” Dalhausser said. “I think they won four against us and we won three against them. So we’re extra motivated against them this year.”
Ranked No. 1 in the world, Dalhausser and Rogers will join the other top American men’s and women’s teams at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour in Austria this week.
In the 4-Woman Series presented by NIKE, Nancy Mason Reynolds captained Team Paul Mitchell (Dianne DeNecochea, Carrie Dodd and Diane Copenhagen) to the championship by defeating Team Malibu (Leanne McSorley, Lisa Rutledge, Jenny Kropp and Angela Lewis) 21-17, 21-17.
Walsh competed for Team NIVEA which was captained by Mira Costa girls volleyball head coach Lisa Zimmerman. Walsh announced that she will partner with Brooke Hanson when she returns to the AVP NIVEA Tour at the San Francisco Open Aug. 14-15. Hanson had a 5th-place finish with Lauren Fendrick at Long Beach.
A conference call with AVP officials and players was made last week to discuss the financial stability of the association and the future of its tour.
“The AVP has been working diligently to secure capital from strategic investors,” said AVP CEO Jason Hodell. “These investors see the value of the tour, the growth of beach volleyball, the quality of our sponsors and the successful season we have had to date.”
Nick Lewin, Managing Partner of RJSM Partners, the majority owner of the AVP Tour, issued the following statement: “RJSM has invested heavily in beach volleyball, and we’re in the middle of negotiating additional financing with the AVP to make it an even stronger property.
“We see a bright future for the tour and we will continue to support its future growth opportunities. We’re looking forward to the rest of a great season,” he added.
The AVP NIVEA Tour is scheduled to resume with the San Francisco Open presented by Barefoot Wine, Aug. 14-15. The tour’s premier event – the Manhattan Beach Open – is slated for Aug. 19-22. ER