John Hyden and Tri Bourne finally broke through at this weekend's Kingston AVP Championships in Huntington Beach.
Runners-up at Huntington in 2013 and 2014, Hyden and Bourne won it all Sunday in an occasionally contentious 21-17, 23-25, 15-13 victory against John Mayer and Ryan Doherty.
"You can't ever think about the past," Hyden said. "If you think, 'here we go again,' then they've got you. So that's not in our minds ever."
The duo cruised to a relatively easy win in set No. 1, but struggled to contain the 7-foot Doherty in the second set. Both sides also disputed a number of calls, leading to some fairly lengthy delays and a yellow card for Doherty.
"You have to use everything in your power to get up and block a 7-footer at 6-foot-5," Bourne said. "But if he brings it down just a little bit, I'm right there."
Becoming a better blocker was a point of emphasis for Bourne in recent weeks, which paid off in the deciding moments of the match.
"We worked a lot when we had some time off on his blocking, actually," Hyden said. "He became really comfortable with certain moves, and it really showed out there this tournament and last. If he's clicking, it makes it really easy for us."
Bourne sent back a couple of key shots at the net — including at championship point — to give his team its second consecutive AVP tour win in the final domestic tour event of the season.
"Tri played exceptionally well in this one right here and kind of carried me," Hyden said. "I made a few errors there and he made up for it. I think the back-to-back is big for us, because we hadn't done that."
With their title, Bourne and Hyden joined Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson — whom they defeated, 21-17, 21-13, in the semifinals earlier Sunday — as the only men's teams to win multiple AVP opens this season.
The women's bracket, meanwhile, ended in predictable fashion: with April Ross victorious again.
Ross, playing alongside Lauren Fendrick for the first time, won her fourth AVP title of the season with her third partner, defeating Nicole Branagh and Jenny Kropp, 21-19, 23-21. It was the first time in AVP history on the women's side that a player won titles with three different teammates.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud about that and happy about that," Ross said. "The thing I'm most happy about is that I learned so much. This season started off really rocky, and I just went with it. I stressed about it at first a lot, and then I was like, you know what? This is just supposed to be for a reason, and then I started going with it and making the best decisions I could."
Ross and Fendrick may have been playing together for the first time, but they've scouted each other for years.
"It's everything you would imagine," Fendrick told the crowd afterward. "April has been a great friend and I've played against her since high school, so I'm very familiar with her game. She's an incredible athlete, she works so hard, and she's always getting better."
Their journey to the finals was rocky, with two of their first three matches going to a third set. But they managed to gel quickly enough to take down the top-seeded team in the tournament.
"She makes it very simple to play with her," Ross said of Fendrick. "She passes really well, she comes in and makes really good choices on her side out. It's just really easy to know what she's going to be doing on the same side of the net with her. She makes great blocking moves and I can read right off of her."
And though Ross and Fendrick probably will point to the finals as their toughest test at Huntington Beach, Ross in particular wanted to pay respect to her semifinals opponent — three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor.
"My family is here, my friends are here, I feel like I know a lot of the people in the crowd," Ross said. "I was blown away that I felt a lot of love even when we played Misty. That's rare. Obviously, Misty is an icon in the sport. To get the amount of love we got in that match was really — I appreciated it so much, and I'm so thankful that Misty May played. This is her backyard too, and it's an honor to play against her."