Anybody who likes the first week of March Madness would have loved Saturday’s volleyball competition at West Beach. There were cliff-hangers and upsets galore in the first three rounds of the $200,000 AVP Crocs Cup Shootout.
The only team to get through the day with a clean slate was the second-seeded women’s tandem of Nicole Branagh/Elaine Youngs. They swept all their matches to earn a berth in Sunday’s semifinals. Top-seeded Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh advanced to the other semifinal, but they had to come back to defeat Annett Davis/Jenny Johnson Jordan in their third match, 18-21, 21-15, 19-17.
Likewise, in the men’s bracket, top-seeded Todd Rogers/Phil Dalhausser had to dig down against Dax Holdren/Will Strickland and pull out a 26-28, 21-17, 15-8 victory. Also securing a semifinal berth were No. 6-seeded John Hyden/Brad Keenan, who upset No. 2 Jake Gibb/Sean Rosenthal in the third round, 20-22, 21-6 15-7.
The other two semifinalists in each division will be decided by four matches that get under way at 9:30 a.m. Sunday Gibb/Rosenthal vs. Stein Metzger/Mark Williams; Holdren/Strickland vs. Nick Lucena/Sean Scott; Jennifer Boss/April Ross vs. Angie Akers/Holly McPeak; and Davis/Johnson Jordan vs. Lauren Fendrick/Paula Roca.
The men’s final is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m., and the women’s at 4 p.m.
It will be hard for the remaining matches to top the drama of the early rounds. Twenty-two of the 48 matches lasted three sets. Some of the games went on and on because of the necessity of winning by two points. Davis and Johnson Jordan battled for almost an hour and a half to subdue Akers/McPeak, 32-34, 21-17, 15-12. Ryan Mariano/Ed Ratledge eliminated John Mayer/Jeff Nygaard, 24-22, 24-26, 24-22.
Holdren and Strickland, seeded No. 12, posted the first upset when they took down No. 5 Matt Fuerbringer/Casey Jennings, 16-21, 21-17, 15-8. The winners got a two-point boost in the third set when an angry outburst by Jennings, upset over a touch call, got him two red cards from the referee. Fuerbringer/Jennings also lost their second match and failed to qualify for next weekend’s shootout in San Francisco. Also going 0-2 were No. 9 seeded Anthony Medel, a San Marcos High grad, and Fred Souza.
Rogers and Holdren, also former San Marcos Royals, were teammates at the beginning of their professional careers, which added some juice to their third-round matchup. They are currently teamed up with 6’9″ partners Rogers and Dalhausser becoming the dominant team in the world and Olympic gold medalists; Holdren prolonging his career with the up-and-coming Strickland, who was AVP rookie of the year in 2007.
Rogers and Dalhausser received commendations from the City of Santa Barbara on Saturday in honor of their Olympic championship. Holdren, who competed in the 2004 Olympics he placed fifth with Metzger will be honored Sunday. All three players live in the area.
The local AVP finals will be televised next weekend on Fox Sports Net West (Saturday, September 13, at 5 p.m.) and Prime Ticket (Sunday, September 14, at 7 p.m.).