Beach Volleyball: Three locals into semis

HUNTINGTON BEACH — The road to an Assn. of Volleyball Professionals tournament title can be strewn with challenges that may even include defeat.

To some degree, three Costa Mesa residents, including two who are seeded atop their respective divisions, experienced this on Saturday at the AVP Championships near the Huntington Beach Pier.

April Ross, an Olympic silver medalist in London who is trying for a third straight tournament win with three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, kept the damage to a minimum. Ross, a Newport Harbor High product who is aiming to help Walsh Jennings surpass another former Sailor, Misty May-Treanor, for career tournament victories (both are tied at 112), merely lost a set in a 19-21. 21-9, 15-13 winner's bracket quarterfinal triumph over Annett Davis and Morgan Miller.

The victory propelled the top-seeded duo into Sunday's semifinals at 1:15 p.m. Ross and Walsh Jennings, a recent pairing that won the previous AVP stop in Santa Barbara, then captured the Federation Internationale de Volleyball tournament crown in Brazil, will meet No. 3-seeded Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar.

Meanwhile, Costa Mesa resident Jake Gibb, a two-time Olympian who teams with Casey Patterson as the men's No. 1 seed, was forced to battle out of the contenders bracket to reach Sunday's semifinals. The top-seeded duo lost a winner's bracket match, 21-19, 12-21, 15-13, to Costa Mesa resident Brad Keenan and John Mayer early Saturday.

Gibb and Patterson, bidding for their fifth straight AVP tournament title, will face No. 4-seeded Theodore Brunner and Nick Lucena in a semifinal set for 12:15 p.m.

Keenan and Mayer, the No. 8 seeds who fell to Brunner and Lucena in the winner's bracket quarterfinal, also came out of the contender's bracket to reach the semifinals against No. 3-seeded Tri Bourne and John Hyden, also at 12:15.

Ross and Walsh Jennings said their recovery against Davis and Miller was merely a matter of self-correction.

"It was just that we made too many mistakes in the first set," Ross said. "We were making the right decisions, we were just not executing. We expect ourselves to do better than that and we came out and played better the second game."

Walsh Jennings also said finding themselves down one game is nothing new to her AVP experience.

"This is the game," said Walsh Jennings, who teamed with May-Treanor, now retired, to form the greatest tandem in beach volleyball history. "There's only 16 teams in these tournaments, so every team is good and {Davis-Miller] is playing well. So, it's not the first time we've been behind or we lost before and came back."

Walsh Jennings said potentially earning tournament victory No. 113 would be gratifying.

"I'm really proud to be in this position," Walsh Jennings, who has taken time off from competing to have two children, said. "I want to surpass it and move on. It's an amazing record to hold, because it means you've won more than anybody out here and that's our goal."

Walsh Jennings said she does not expect to hear from her former partner if she should get the victories record.

"I don't know, Misty is Misty," Walsh Jennings said. "Even if I don't hear from her, I know she'll be proud of me. But I wouldn't expect [a congratulatory phone call or a text]."

Gibb and Patterson won three contenders bracket matches to advance, making it a four-match day.

"We put in three-hour workdays in the gym, for that specific reason, so we have legs at the end of the day," Gibb said. "That's crazy, four matches. We came over here [for the fourth match] and all we said was, 'It's Timmy Time.' That's our strength coach, Tim Pelot and that's the only reason we can get through four matches in a day. That's why we train hard, so volleyball is the easiest thing we do."

The men final is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, with the women's final to follow at 4 p.m.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World