Surf isn’t the only reason to visit Manhattan Beach, Southern California. The home of El Porto is also the hub of the Manhattan Beach Open, one of the most prestigious events in professional beach volleyball. IMG Worldwide – the global leader in sports, fashion and media – own the event, in addition to the US Open of Surfing. Given the lack of August swell, The Surf Channel took a break from the water to watch some of the world’s best volleyball players dominate the courts near the Manhattan Beach Pier. We were inspired, amazed and impressed by the level of professional athleticism. The champions of the MBO would then have their names forever engraved on the pier in honor of their achievement, a check off the bucket list for AVP competitors (Association of Volleyball Professionals).
The final day of the Manhattan Beach Open concluded with ups, downs and plenty of excitement as the newest plaques were awarded to the winners of this year’s competition. Whitney Pavlik (Laguna Beach, Calif.) earned her third spot on the Manhattan Beach Pier with new partner, three-time Olympic gold medalist and now six-time Manhattan Beach Open champion Kerri Walsh-Jennings (Manhattan Beach, Calif.). It was a big day for the Jennings family as Casey Jennings joined his wife as a first-time Manhattan Beach inductee with his former partner Matt Fuerbringer (Redondo Beach), as the newest stars on the Volleyball Walk of Fame. Fans flocked to the beach in their retro gear to claim the best spot on the sand with their beach chairs, living room poufs and blankets in tow to support the volleyball greats of the past and present. Throughout the earlier rounds, Legends 4s and the conclusion of the Finals, spectators filled the beach to watch the newly crowned teams join 53 years of volleyball greats on the pier.
Brisk weather didn’t stop fans from showing their support of the athletes, which eventually cleared half way through the women’s finals, allowing the sun to shine down on the granddaddy of all beach volleyball tournaments. Those who call themselves volleyball fans came out in full-force to witness world-class volleyball history being made on the second stop of the AVP tour, signaling that the spirit of beach volleyball is still alive and well.
The earlier rounds began with the upset of top-seeded teams Walsh-Jennings/Pavlik, Olympic silver medalists April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.)/Jen Kessy (San Clemente, Calif.) and Redondo Beach native Sean Rosenthal and partner Phil Dalhasser (Ventura, Calif.) being sent to the Contender Rounds to battle for a spot in the finals. Both Walsh-Jennings/Pavlik and Jennings/Fuerbringer met their opponents Jennifer Fopma (Bellflower, Calif.) and Brooke Sweat (Hermosa Beach, Calif.), and Rosenthal and Dalhausser for a second time in the finals, who fought hard for another chance to defeat their competitors. Although both sets of finalists appeared calm, composed and in-sync, the dynamic chemistry between Jennings/Fuerbringer proved to be an unstoppable force in the end despite being seen as the “underdogs”.
“I’m speechless. It’s amazing to be on the pier for the third time. I wanted it so bad and to be up there forever with Kerri is just amazing,” said Pavlik.
Walsh-Jennings accepted her plaque with newborn daughter Scout in her arms. “This is the birthplace of beach volleyball so this win means everything to me. I’m coming back from having this little one and I am so proud and excited that my husband won too! Jen and Brooke are a great team. They beat April (Ross) and Jen (Kessy) so we knew we had to just get out there and take care of us, and we did.”
An emotional Jennings said, “I walk along the pier with my family and my kids ask, ‘where’s mommy’s (plaque)’ and they see ‘oh, right there and right there.’ Then they ask me, ‘where’s yours, daddy?,” and I go to the empty ones all the time and say, ‘right there.’ And now, I’m there.”
Fuerbringer, who retired in March came out of retirement for only the crown jewel of beach volleyball tournaments as his final swan song. “As The Hov (volleyball legend and five-time Manhattan Beach champ Tim Hovland) would say, ‘You just need one Manhattan Beach – that’s all that matters.’ It’s a real accomplishment knowing that this is the last tournament for me ever and we were able to get out there and just play against the best team in the world, and at the grand slam, the world series, the bottom of the ninth – we got it.”
Earlier in the day, the beach was treated to the Legends 4s tournament presented by Whole Foods, as previous greats Sinjin Smith, Tim Hovland, Mira Costa High School alumnus Eric Fonoimoana and Mike Dodd took the stage. An air of respect swept across the sand as the legends of beach volleyball teamed up with the top players of today, Casey Patterson (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Jake Gibb (Costa Mesa, Calif.), Tri Bourne (Aiea, Hawaii) and Nick Lucena (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). In true fashion, Hovland worked the crowd and fueled the fire for the friendly competition with former partner Dodd and new teammates Lucena and Bourne as they defeated Smith, Fonoimoana, Gibb and Patterson in a single game to 21.
Dodd who is a ’75 graduate of Mira Costa High School said, “It was just like old times! I coach and travel with the team all over the world, but being in Manhattan Beach means being with family. The game was fun but reminiscing about old times and coming out here to win with Nick and Tri were the highlights.”
Next stop on the AVP tour will be in Cincinnati, Ohio next weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Stay tuned for more information about the top eight teams per gender who will qualify for the DO AC Beach Volleyball Invitational in Atlantic City from Sept. 6-8. Those who earn their spot in the fourth stop of the AVP tour will compete for for a chunk of the $100,000 prize purse on the brand new volleyball courts at the world-famous Boardwalk. For complete details on all stops of the AVP Tour, please go toavp.com.
For a complete list of results and brackets, visit http://avp.com/stats/mbostats.
Sponsors of the 2013 Manhattan Beach Open will include Bud Light, Paul Mitchell, Whole Foods, Lyfe Kitchen, GNC, Wilson and more.
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About the AVP
The AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) is a leading lifestyle sports and entertainment company that produces, markets and distributes professional beach volleyball events. Organized in 1983, it has operated the industry’s most prominent national touring series, the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, featuring the top American men and women competitors in the sport including athletes who have won numerous Gold, Silver and Bronze Olympic medals. Synonymous with the sport and the most recognized brand in the space, the AVP was recently acquired by new ownership that has set out to solidify its leadership position. Please visit AVP.comfor additional information.