H.B. Open to draw crowds

HB Independent

When Brad Keenan comes to town for the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals Huntington Beach Open, there's always plenty of fanfare surrounding the local product.

For the past three years that the 1999 Fountain Valley High graduate has played in the tournament — held annually at the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier — he's been backed by a 10- to 15-member makeshift band that plays in the stands with all its might during his performances.

The renowned band — well, in certain AVP circles, anyway — will be back again this weekend, he said, to lend him support during the AVP NIVEA Tour Huntington Beach Open, presented by Bud Light Lime.

"It's great," the 28-year-old said of the impromptu musical group made up of local musicians headed by Caesar Ruiz. "I've known him (Ruiz) a long time He sold me my house."

"We're just a bunch of noise-makers," Ruiz joked, adding that the musicians will sometimes march down Main Street to the beach for Keenan's matches, just to "get the crowd riled up."

"We just have fun with it. It's not like we're a fine-tuned group or anything.

"I've known Brad for 10 to 15 years and he's a great guy and a great player. I figured it'd be great to get a group of guys together to go out and support him at the local tournaments, and that's what we do with this band. We plan on being out there again this weekend."

Fanfare aside, Keenan is focused on the Huntington Beach Open. He and playing partner Casey Jennings, husband of AVP star and U.S. Olympian Kerri Walsh, figure to be among the key tandems in contention for the men's title.

The four-day event begins at 8 a.m. today with men's and women's Open Qualifier competition. The men's and women's Main Draw starts at 9 a.m. Friday. Both the Open Qualifier and Main Draw run daily until approximately 6 p.m.

The Main Draw continues from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and again from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. The women's final is set for 11 a.m. Sunday, followed by the men's final at 1 p.m.

Keenan has never won the men's title of the Huntington Beach Open, although he did reach the final two years ago playing with John Hyden.

A four-time All-American middle blocker at Pepperdine, Keenan has switched partners several times. Most recently, he played with Nick Lucena for part of the 2008 tour season and the entire 2009 season. Last year, the pair finished second once and was third on five occasions.

Playing along side Jennings this season, the two have a pair of ninth-place finishes to their credit in the first two AVP tour events

Keenan has two AVP wins and three FIVA wins in his career.

Keenan has played on the international tour the last few weeks, as has Matt Fuerbringer (Estancia High, Class of 1992), who returned Sunday from tour stops in Poland, China and Brazil.

The 36-year-old Fuerbringer, who has been teamed the last seven years with Casey Jennings, is now partnered this year with Nick Lucena. The two have had success in the first two AVP events of the season: they shared a co-men's title with Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers at the rained-out Fort Lauderdale final April 18 and finished third May 2 in Santa Barbara.

Fuerbringer said he and Lucena, 30, head into the Huntington Beach Open as the No. 3 men's seed.

"We're having a great time so far and I like this partnership," Fuerbringer said of Lucena. "Nick's a really good kid who works hard and is very professional. We're both hard workers and we both want to win."

The 6-foot-8 Fuerbringer has won six times on the AVP, all with Jennings, and has made more than $400,000 in earnings.

One title he'd like to win, and one that has eluded him, is the Huntington Beach Open.

"I really, really want it," he said. "I've never even made it to a final there. I want to play Center Court in Huntington Beach. I'll have a lot of family and friends and mentors who got me into volleyball there this weekend. It'd be cool to put on a show for them, show them how much I appreciate their support and what they've done for me."

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