Randy Angel

AVP Hermosa Beach volleyball tournament showcases pro, rising talent

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Alix Klineman enjoyed the hometown crowd placing second with partner April Ross in the women’s final. Photo by Ray Vidal

by Randy Angel

During its four-day tour stop at the Hermosa Beach Open, the AVP featured up-and-coming stars and seasoned veterans, while more than 56,000 fans showed their support with T-shirts and signs promoting their favorite players.

In the last competition of the weekend, the top-seeded men’s team of Theo Brunner, 33, and John Hyden, 45, claimed their first 2018 AVP title with a thrilling 21-19, 16-21, 16-14 match against No. 3 Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty.

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“We kept them (Allen/Doherty) on edge a little. That was good,” Hyden said.

Brunner added, “I just remained really positive, stayed focused and knew we could pull it out.”

The women’s competition featured up-and-coming stars Sara Hughes, 23, and Summer Ross, 27, who took home the women’s championship and their second 2018 AVP title.

Seeded No. 1, Hughes and Ross eliminated the No. 2 seeded team of Kelly Claes and defending Hermosa Beach Open champion Brittany Hochevar, of Torrance, in the semifinals. The match featured long rallies but the strategic plays of Hughes and Ross produced a 21-18, 21-19 victory.

Following a hard-fought three match semifinal win against No. 4 Caitlin Ledoux and Geena Urango, the “A-Team” of third-seeded Alix Klineman and April Ross faced another challenge in Hughes and Summer Ross.

Former Olympic gold medalist Eric Fonoimoana came out of retirement to compete in the APV Hermosa Beach Open. Photo by Ray Vidal

With the score frozen on match point and the crowd on their feet for over 30 minutes of play,  Hughes and S. Ross edged the visibly exhausted Klineman and April Ross, with a final score of 21-19, 19-21, 17-15.

“That was so intense, I am still shaking from that match,” Summer Ross said. “Thank you so much Hermosa Beach, we love you!”

The male and female winners were presented with AVP Championship skateboards.

Klineman, who has partnered with April Ross this season, is optimistic about the team’s future. The duo won the AVP Austin Open and had third-place finishes at New York and San Francisco. Internationally, the team has four top-10 finishes including a first-place at The Hague, Netherlands in January.

“Our partnership has been great,” Klineman said. “April has so much experience and there’s always new things I’m able to learn from her. She’s super competitive but also patient, so it’s a great combination. It’s a long process but overall, I think we’ve grown a lot as a team and we’re so much better than even a few months ago.”

One of the highlights of the Hermosa tournament was the return of local legend and Olympic gold medalist Eric Fonoimoana.

The 49-year-old took time away from his duties at Elite Beach Volleyball and the foundation “Dig for Kids” to come out of retirement and inspire his many students.

“I got a call from Jeremy Casebeer on Wednesday afternoon to play with him in Hermosa,” Fonoimoana said.“ At 5 p.m. Wednesday, I agreed to come out of retirement and test my skills against the worlds best. I had a blast and enjoyed every moment.”

Abby Van Winkle, left, and Manhattan Beach’s Piper Monk-Heidrich captured the AVPFirst 18U championship. Photo by Ray Vidal

In between pro action on Stadium Court, national championship matches were held showcasing the top teams from the AVPFirst program.

Recent Mira Costa graduate and UCLA-bound Piper Monk-Heidrich joined forces with fellow incoming Bruin Abby Van Winkle of San Clemente to win the AVPFirst Girls 18U championship

“Winning the national championship was an amazing feeling,” Monk-Heidrich said. “The finals were played on main court in the AVP stadium and having all of those people watching and cheering it really felt like we were in the AVP.

“Abby and I thought we would be more nervous before the game but we were oddly calm. We came out into the game with a focus unmatched by our opponents and we were able to take control of the game early on. I think that confidence and readiness to fight for every ball really helped us secure the game.”

The next AVP 2018 Pro Tour stop is the second of three Gold Series tournaments, the Manhattan Beach Open, which will be played August 16-19 at the Manhattan Beach Pier.

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