H.B. is home sweet home

HB Independent

April Ross didn't want to leave the winner's podium.

The Newport Harbor High grad and Costa Mesa resident wished to relish the moment, her moment, the one that finally belonged to her and teammate Jennifer Kessy.

"I'm tearing up," she told a crowd of about 3,000 at center court Sunday, site of the Assn. Volleyball Professionals Nivea Tour Huntington Beach Open, presented by Bud Light Lime. "I don't want to get down. I don't want the moment to end."

What Ross and Kessy — another Orange County product from San Clemente — did end Sunday was futility in the Southland. The two have four AVP tournament titles to their credit, but none had come in Southern California.

That was put to rest against the women's top-seeded team.

Ross and Kessy rallied from a game down in the women's final against Misty May-Treanor (Long Beach) and Nicole Branagh (Torrance) to have the final say, as they scored the final five points of the decisive third game to win the match, 14-21, 21-12, 15-11, at the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.

"I can't even put into words how I feel," Ross said. "We wanted so badly to win this. It's super-tough to win in Southern California. Everyone is from here, everyone trains here and everyone has family here. So, everyone wants to win here.

"This is what I call the 'Grand Slam' of the AVP, here, Manhattan and Hermosa. I'm just so happy right now."

The women's finale pitted Ross, who is in her fifth season on the AVP, against fellow Newport Harbor alum May-Treanor, who had won five of the previous six times she played in Huntington Beach. May-Treanor and Branagh, who were playing for just the sixth time together, gave props credit to their opponent.

"We had our chances, but they made some big plays," May-Treanor said. "We had tough matches throughout the entire tournament and we know how tough they (Ross and Kessy) are."

May-Treanor and Branagh had little trouble in the first game. The teams were tied at 6 but May Treanor and Branagh began to pull away when May-Treanor stuffed Ross at the net to give her team a 16-10 edge. They ended up winning the first game on a hit out of bounds.

The teams switched roles in the second game. Ross and Kessy steadily pulled away after the teams were tied at 6. Holding a 12-9 lead, Kessy delivered a kill and Ross followed on next serve with a diving dig, got up and ended up scoring on a soft drop to extend the lead to 14-9. Consecutive kills by Ross and Kessy and a block of Branagh at the net by Ross pushed the lead to 20-11.

In the deciding game, May-Treanor and Branagh led much of the way and Ross finished it up an ace to end it. "We're two Orange County girls who have dreamed of winning in Huntington," Kessy said. "Our wish came true."

In the men's final that followed, top-seed Todd Rogers (Solvang) and Phil Dalhausser (Ventura) needed three games to get past No. 2-seed Sean Scott (Redondo Beach) and John Hyden (Sherman Oaks), 21-16, 18-21, 15-9. Dalhausser had four aces in the match.

Rogers and Dalhausser have won the Huntington Beach Open four of the last five years. Sunday marked the 39th AVP victory for the 2008 U.S. Olympic gold medalists.

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