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Ross wins with third different partner

(DREW A. KELLEY / HB Independent)

The Assn. of Volleyball Professionals AVP Championships at the Huntington Beach Pier offered a little bit of everything Sunday but in the end, a first was recorded in both the women’s and men’s divisions.

The team of April Ross (Costa Mesa) and Lauren Fendrick (Hermosa Beach) was playing together for the first time, and the duo survived the four-day competition to win the women’s title. The team of Tri Bourne (Manhattan Beach) and veteran John Hyden (Sherman Oaks), runner-up to the men’s title at the pier last year, won for the first time in Huntington and claimed the coveted winner’s cup this time around.

Ross and Fendrick, seeded No. 11 in the women’s bracket, defeated the top-seeded team of Nicole Branagh (Torrance) and Jenny Kropp (Manhattan Beach) in Sunday’s first final, 21-19, 23-21, and No. 3 seeds Bourne/Hyden turned back the challenge of No. 2-seeded Ryan Doherty (Fountain Valley) and John Mayer (Mar Vista) in the day’s finale, 21-17, 25-23, 15-13.

The tournament offered a $200,000 prize purse. Both winning teams earned $20,000 and an additional $5,000 sponsor check.

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The AVP Championships at the pier marked the conclusion of the 2015 AVP tour season.

Women’s Final

With her victory, April Ross, a 2000 graduate of Newport Harbor High, became the first female player to win titles in the same season with three different partners. She previously won AVP tourney titles this year with Kerri Walsh Jennings and Jennifer Fopma.

Ross also was playing for a Huntington Beach title for a fourth time and won for the third time. She took the women’s crown last year with Walsh Jennings and in 2010 with Jennifer Kessy. She and Kessy also finished runner-up to the title in 2009.

She has won 20 of the last 25 AVP tournaments she has entered.

Ross said it’s always special winning in Huntington.

“I never tire of it,” she said. “I have family and friends here rooting me on, and I was blown away from the crowd here in Huntington who has shown me a lot of love and support. I felt it out there.”

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In a tight first set that had seven tie scores, Ross and Fendrick opened up a three-point lead on three occasions, the final time at 11-8. Branagh and Kropp battled back to tie the score at 14-14 on a block by Branagh, and the score was tied one final time at 18-18 on a kill down the left-side by Fendrick.

Ross and Fendrick took the lead for good when Branagh was called for a net violation. They got the 21-19 win when Branagh served into the net.

The second set featured 12 tie scores by the time the score stood at 12-12. An ace by Branagh started a 3-0 run that put her and Kropp up, 15-12. Ross and Fendrick caught their opponents at 16-16 when a shot by Ross went off Kropp. Five more tie scores ensued before Fendrick placed a ball in open space and a shot that went long by Kropp at championship point resulted in a 23-21 victory for Ross and Fendrick.

Ross and Fendrick (Carlsbad High, Class of 1999) have known each other since high school. They played against one another during club play, were teammates on a USA Volleyball indoor national team, and were rivals again when Ross played at USC and Fendrick at UCLA.

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“I have played against her (Fendrick) since high school and she has always been a player who has pushed my game, to elevate it,” Ross said. “It’s an honor to play with her.”

Fendrick felt the same.

“I really can’t say how just how special this is to play and win this with April,” she said. “I’ve always loved her style of play and I think we just clicked, even though we haven’t been together long.

“This feels great and it was a real grind this week. Jenny (Kropp) and Nicole (Branagh) did a great job and played great all week.”

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Men’s Final

Tri Bourne and John Hyden were an exciting duo to watch throughout the tournament. They reached the championship match by taking out the top-seeded team of Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb, both Huntington Beach residents, in the semifinals Sunday morning.

Last year at the pier, the pair was edged in the men’s final by Patterson and Gibb.

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Bourne and Hyden took the first set, couldn’t close out the second set, but did in set No. 3.

“I feel fantastic,” said Hyden who next month turns 43.

Hyden is just the third player – Karch Kiraly and Mike Whitmarsh are the other two – to win an AVP event at the age of 40 or older.

Hyden and Bourne, 25, won the Cincinnati Open the previous week.

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“Winning back-to-back events was big, because we had never done that before,” Hyden said.

Serving errors proved costly to Doherty and Mayer in the final. They committed three early on in Set No. 1 which dissolved a 7-4 lead for the pair. Bourne and Hyden trailed by three points on three occasions in the set but eventually took three-point leads three times of their own, the last time coming at 14-11 on a drop shot by Hyden. Doherty and Mayer rallied and pulled into a 16-16 tie on a great dig and put back by Mayer, but Bourne and Hyden scored the final four points to win the set. A Mayer serve into the net – a fifth serving error for he and Doherty, gave Bourne and Hyden a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. At set point, Bourne sent a shot over his shoulder that got past the 7-foot Doherty and landed down the right-side line for a 21-17 win.

Doherty and Mayer came back from a 15-12 deficit to win the second set. The score was tied at 23-23 when a kill by Mayer put his team on top, and Doherty finished the set and a 25-23 win when he blocked Hyden at the net.

The decisive set included 10 tie scores but at 13-13, Mayer sent a serve into the net. Bourne, serving championship point No. 1, would come up with a block of Mayer on the left side to end the match.

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