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'Home' is great for the winners at AVP Huntington Beach Open

'Home' is great for the winners at AVP Huntington Beach Open
Angela Bensend dives for the ball during the women's finals of the AVP Huntington Beach Open. (Steven Georges)

April Ross called it "amazing."

Jake Gibb said it was "insane."

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That's how both local athletes described their victories Sunday in front of an appreciative full house at the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals Huntington Beach Open.

In the two championship finals at the north side of the Huntington Beach Pier, Ross, of Costa Mesa, and teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings (Manhattan Beach), turned back the challenge of Geena Urango of Los Alamitos and Angela Bensend (Plano, Texas) in the women's title match, 21-13, 21-16, and Gibb and fellow Huntington Beach resident Casey Patterson withstood a serious challenge from brothers Trevor and Taylor Crabb (Honolulu, Hawaii) in a scintillating men's finale, 21-19, 23-21.

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Women's Final

"It's amazing," Ross told the crowd after she and Walsh Jennings had taken their AVP match winning streak to 46.

Last year, Ross teamed with Lauren Fendrick to win the Huntington Beach Open women's title.

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"Our team unity is solid," she said of her alliance with Walsh Jennings as the two continued their quest toward the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil in August. "We want to keep it rolling."

Ross and Walsh Jennings, the top-seeded team in the tournament, controlled the first set of the women's final after falling behind 1-0 on an ace by Urango to open the match. The pair never trailed after a kill by Walsh Jennings put them in front, 3-2.

They began to pull away from the fifth-seeded team, which they defeated earlier in the tournament, after a kill by Ross after the first technical timeout of the set gave them a 9-6 lead. An ace by Ross made it 12-7, and back-to-back aces by Walsh Jennings stretched the score to 19-11, the biggest lead of the set.

The teams were locked in a close second set and Urango and Bensend used a 4-0 run, capped by a serve by Urango, to wipe out a two-point deficit to forge a 15-13 advantage. Ross and Walsh Jennings returned the favor by going on a 4-0 run out of a technical timeout to regain the lead at 17-15. Ross came up with a stuff at the net at match point for a 21-16 win for the title.

Ross finished with 16 kills, 12 digs and two aces, Walsh Jennings with 11 kills, six digs, four blocks and four aces.

Bensend had 10 kills and two digs, and Urango seven kills, 15 digs and three aces.

Ross/Walsh Jennings had defeated Bensend/Urango in an earlier winner's bracket match, 21-14, 21-14.

"We're playing well, and we feel great," Walsh Jennings said. "We're working hard every single day. The journey to the Olympics is so important."

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Men's Final

Gibb and Patterson, the No. 2-seed, also closed in on a berth in the Summer Olympic Games after a grueling finale against the fourth-seeded Crabb brothers.

Sunday marked the first meeting between the teams since the Crabbs defeated Gibb and Patterson at last year's Manhattan Beach Open. Earlier in the day, the Crabbs had knocked out the top-seeded men's team of Ryan Doherty and John Mayer in the semifinals.

Momentum switched sides throughout the opening set. Gibb and Patterson held a two-point lead (11-9) but a kill by Trevor Crabb and back-to-back aces by Taylor Crabb, put the brothers in the lead at 15-12. The score was tied at 17-17 and Jake and Patterson took a two-point lead (19-17) after a great volley between the teams ended when Trevor Crabb hit into the next. A stuff at the net by Gibb put he and Patterson at set point, the 20-17 lead the largest margin by either team in the set, and they got the win when Trevor Crabb served into the net.

In a wild second set that featured several athletic moves that wowed the crown, the Crabbs, in their first final, grabbed an 11-6 lead when a kill by Taylor Crabb ended another great set by Trevor Crabb. Gibb and Patterson rallied to within a point three times before evening the score (16-16) when a shot Trevor Crabb went wide.

The score was tied again at 18-18 and was broken when Gibb sent a shot off Trevor Crabb down the left side, and his tip shot moments later put he and Patterson at match point. It had to wait, as Taylor Crabb placed a shot down the line, and a serve by Trevor Crabb hit the net but trickled over for a point for a 20-20 score.

"They are volley players," Gibb said of the Crabb Brothers. "They are really, really good and we knew this would be a grind. These are two of the best side-out players, and in the top 20 in the world. We had to want it as much as these kids wanted it."

Trevor Crabb served into the net on his next attempt but got the point back with a kill just inside the back line. Tied at 21, Gibb put he and Patterson in the lead for good with a kill just inside the back line, and Patterson delivered the last of his match-high 18 kills for a 23-21 win.

Patterson also had 13 digs and Gibb had 11 kills, three digs, six blocks and four aces.

Trevor Crabb had 17 kills, four digs, two blocks and two aces. Taylor Crabb had eight kills, 14 digs, a block and two aces.

"They were really fun to play," Patterson said of the Crabbs. "It was a great atmosphere here, all this volleyball leading up to the Olympics."

Patterson and Gibb won the Huntington Beach Open two years ago and finished third last year and in 2013.

"It's insane," Gibb said after he and Patterson had regained first place in the tournament on their home court.

Road to the Finals

Four teams, Ross/Walsh Jennings and No. 6-seeded Lane Carico/Summer Ross on the women's side, and Gibb/Patterson and Crabb/Crabb on the men's side, went into Sunday's semifinals undefeated in tourney play.

Ross/Walsh Jennings met second-seeded Kim DiCello/Kendra VanZwieten in one semifinal and defeated the pair that won the New Orleans Open last month, 21-18, 21-12. Carico/Summer Ross, who had defeated DiCello/VanZwieten in a Saturday match, were upended in the other semifinal by Bensend/Urango, 25-23, 21-16.

The Crabb Brothers earned their spot in their first men's final by upsetting No. 1-seeded Ryan Doherty/John Mayer in the first semifinal Sunday, 21-13, 26-24. Doherty and Mayer won the men's New Orleans Open last month and had played in the semifinals seven times and finals four times since the beginning of 2015, the most appearances in each category among players on the tour.

Gibb/Patterson defeated Billy Allen/Theo Brunner in the second semifinal, 14-7 (retired).

The Huntington Beach Open began with qualification matches Thursday.

The next stop on the 2016 AVP Tour is the Cincinnati Open May 17-21.

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