The AVP Salt Lake City Open will be remembered for two things: Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson winning in their home state (the duo’s first victory of the season) and all the drama that unfolded on the courts. Not Days of our Lives drama, but competitive drama driven by the large number of recent partner swaps and many former partners facing off against each other all tournament long.
The men’s side didn’t have too many partner shakeups, but it did have former partners Todd Rogers and Ryan Doherty squaring off twice with Ryan and Nick Lucena taking down Todd and Theo Brunner both times. With the absence of Jennifer Fopma, who is out for the rest of the season with an injury, the women’s side saw a significant number of partner changes. Sarah Day, playing with Christal Engle, played her former partner Olaya Pazo in the first round; Emily Stockman came up against Kendra Van Zwieten in the second round of the winners bracket (congrats to Emily Stockman and Traci Weamer for taking home a fifth place finish, which is a career-best for both ladies).
The tension hit a peak in the match when Brittany Hochevar (playing with Ali Daley) and Lane Carico (playing with Kim DiCello) faced off in a match that would result in the loser being eliminated from the tournament. You knew this was more than a normal battle for 13th place when Lane missed the first serve of the match and Brittany gave a little primal scream. I saw this battle brewing from my DJ booth, so I put on a mix and left the booth to get a better view and watch the entire match. It did not disappoint. Everyone watching, whether they were aware that Lane and Brittany were former partners or not, could feel the intensity with which this match was played. All four athletes on the court seemed to be one step quicker and have a little more power in their swings. I know all athletes want to win all the time, but in this match you knew each player really wanted to win. Brittany and Ali came out on top winning in two, 21-17, 21-16, eventually finishing ninth. The mix I put on was perfectly timed too—just as the last song of the mix was playing, the match ended. Almost as if I planned it that way.
Last year, I missed out on the Salt Lake event, so I was really excited to attend this year as all the players said it was an amazing event in 2013. I also have family in that area and was able to hang out with them while I was in town. I heard the Salt Lake City crowd was great and I couldn’t wait to find out for myself. They did not disappoint. During the finals, not only did they clap along to almost every song I played, but they sang “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” for me and did one of the best waves I’ve seen in a long time. They even took it upon themselves to start a “Utah! Utah!” chant in the men’s finals as Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson mounted a comeback in game three after being down 14-11 to Ryan Doherty and Nick Lucena.
Jake and Casey both have huge Utah ties. Jake grew up in Bountiful, just up the road from the tournament site, and Casey played volleyball at BYU. So the fans were understandably pro Gibb/Patterson. You never like to see any of your friends lose (being the DJ for the AVP for 11 years, I am fortunate to count most of the players as friends), but it was definitely a storybook ending for Jake and Casey to crawl back into game three, pulling the victory out from under Ryan and Nick 17-15 in front of their friends and family. I can only compare this comeback to the 2008 Santa Barbara event when Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers were down 14-9 in the third game of the final versus John Hyden and Brad Keenan and came back to win 20-18.
Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal didn't compete in the Long Beach tournament, likely because Dalhausser and his wife Jen recently welcomed their second child, a daughter, Sophia.
In the women’s final, for the third time in the three AVP events so far this year, Kerri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross took on Lauren Fendrick and country-music-loving Brooke Sweat. Kerri and April won for the third straight time, but avoided going to three like they were forced to in St. Petersburg and Milwaukee. Brooke, I’m sure, didn’t get to hear as much country music as she wanted in Salt Lake City, so for those of you coming to the Manhattan Beach open this weekend, bring your cowboy and cowgirl hats.
If you thought there was drama and intensity on the courts in Utah, just wait until this weekend when all the players are playing to get their names on the Manhattan Beach Pier.