Casey Patterson provided the entertainment at Stadium Court. He did an arm wave. He postured. He yelled. And when he secured the match on an ace, Patterson took a minibow and gestured to new partner Chase Budinger.
The duo’s chemistry was entertaining and worth applauding Saturday, when they scored a 21-18, 21-17 win against Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena to advance to the semifinals of the Huntington Beach Open. This is first tournament together for Budinger and Patterson, and it was no small feat to defeat the 2016 Olympians and former Open champions.
“It’s huge for this team to make a push,” Patterson said.
Patterson, an Olympian with former partner Jake Gibb, picked Budinger, a 6-foot-7 former NBA player, because of Budinger’s budding potential, and it showed with Budinger’s eight blocks.
“Chase has the ability to hang and disrupt guys’ offense,” Patterson said. “I tried to take the history that Jake and I had against Nick and some things like that and implement it with giving Chase some knowledge of what works, and he also takes it to another level with the amount of hang time he has and his vision and patience.
“That’s the key. That shows how much of a veteran he is already. Having a match like that against that team, is what I saw six months ago, when he was playing with [Sean Rosenthal]. I knew that was a possibility.”
Budinger seeks his first win on the AVP Tour. He switched to beach volleyball three years ago and has come a long way from that raw transition.
“I was a horrendous blocker a year ago,” Budinger said. “I’ve been working really hard on it. I’m just glad it’s starting to show.”
A Huntington Beach fixture, Patterson, 39 with four children, stands in contrast to newbie Budinger, 30, and it shows with the ankle brace that Patterson wears from years of wear and tear. But Budinger feeds off Patterson’s enthusiasm in an interesting dynamic.
“His energy is so contagious,” Budinger said. “I’m one of those guys that could get frustrated with my play and get really internal. But having him just always screaming and being energized, I forget about that part and [his] energy just feeds on to me.”
Patterson and Budinger will play seventh-seeded Tim Bomgren and Troy Field. Top-seeded Gibb and Taylor Crabb eked out a 21-13, 15-21, 17-15 elimination match against Dalhausser and Lucena to advance to the other men’s semifinal, a rematch against Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb.
On the women’s side, top-seeded April Ross and Alix Klineman advanced with a 21-17, 21-15 win against fourth-seeded Emily Day and Betsi Flint. Ross and Klineman ended 2018 with three straight wins but Ross said they feel like a different team after a rigorous offseason program, specifically a new block defense.
“I feel like we’ve really narrowed in on what our operating system is and we can now feel that on the court,” said the two-time Olympic medalist Ross, who will go for her fourth Open win Sunday.
Ross and Klineman will play No. 2 seed Sara Hughes and Summer Ross (no relation), opposite Day and Flint against Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in the other women’s semifinal. Pavan and Humana-Paredes swept Hughes and Ross 21-18, 21-10 in the quarterfinals, although it wasn’t an upset given that Canadians Pavan and Humana-Paredes are ranked third globally. They are seeded 14th because they haven’t collected enough AVP points, and they flexed their muscle behind Humana-Paredes, who had 18 kills and 12 digs.
“Melissa played incredibly well,” Pavan said. “I’m not sure why they stayed on her so long because her sideout was absolutely unbelievable. She was very automatic … they were getting pretty frustrated because she was touching everything.”