Can you dig it? AVP takes over Manhattan Beach

Fans scramble for a free volleyball tossed into the stands.
Fans scramble for a free volleyball tossed into the stands before a semifinal match in the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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On the sand in Manhattan Beach on Sunday, Olympic gold medal winners April Ross and Alix Klineman were finally able to play in front of a loud, sold-out crowd with a few watching from the pier. It was a striking contrast from the empty stadium where they played on a manmade beach volleyball court at Shiokaze Park in Tokyo. Shiokaze Park, where the Olympic beach volleyball competition took place, was devastatingly hot compared with the cool overcast Southern California skies.

In 2020, I covered the NBA Finals and the World Series; this summer it was the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Without spectators, every arena seemed like a huge television studio. A huge part of sports is hearing the roar of the crowd and the energy that fans bring to the game. With the return of the AVP Sunday, that feeling returned, and it finally felt normal again.

A man in a backward baseball cap in front of a pictogram depicting a volleyball player.
Trevor Crabb warms up before a semifinal match at the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
A sandy Trevor Crabb has tape that reads "USA" on his right shoulder.
A sandy Trevor Crabb waits for the serve in a semifinal match at the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Trevor Crabb dives to the sand in a beach volleyball match.
Trevor Crabb dives for the ball in a semifinal match in the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday. The team of Crabb and Tri Bourne later won the championship.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Volleyball players' hands reach over the net to try to hit a yellow and black Wilson volleyball.
Trevor Crabb tries to block a shot in a semifinal match in the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
A man in red swim trunks hits a volleyball with both arms extended in front of him.
Trevor Crabb sets up teammate Tri Bourne in the championship of the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Casey Patterson dives into the sand to keep a volleyball from hitting the ground.
Casey Patterson dives for the ball in the championship against Trevor Crabb and Tri Bourne.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Two men in red swim trunks hug on the beach.
Trevor Crabb, left, and teammate Tri Bourne celebrate the championship in the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Tri Bourne, left, pours liquid from an aluminum can into his mouth as Trevor Crabb empties a can over his head.
Tri Bourne, left, and Trevor Crabb celebrate after winning the championship at the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Women compete in a semifinal match at the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Sarah Sponcil dives for a volleyball in the sand.
Sarah Sponcil dives for the ball in a semifinal match in the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
A woman hits a volleyball over the net.
Alix Klineman returns the ball against Emily Day and Betsi Flint in the Manhattan Beach Open Final Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
A woman in a white hat and red bikini hits a volleyball over the net.
Alix Klineman returns the ball against Emily Day and Betsi Flint in the Manhattan Beach Open Final Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Two women volleyball players embrace to celebrate their victory.
April Ross, left, celebrates with teammate Alex Klineman after defeating Emily Day and Betsi Flint to win the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Two women wearing red bikinis and white leis on the beach.
April Ross, left, and Alex Klineman were all smiles after winning the championship at the Manhattan Beach Open Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)