Despite playing with different partners, Phil Dalhausser and April Ross successfully defended their titles Sunday sweeping championship matches to win the 56th AVP Manhattan Beach Open presented by Acer.

Dalhausser won the 2014 Manhattan Beach Open with Sean Rosenthal but after the duo split last month, Dalhausser renewed his partnership with Nick Lucena. The duo had not played together since October of 2005 and was coming off a second-place finish at the Seattle Open the previous week.

Phil Dalhausser goes for the kill en route to his fifth AVP Manhattan Beach Open championship. Photo by Ray Vidal

Seeded third in Manhattan Beach, Dalhausser and Lucena did not lose a set in the tournament defeating Tri Bourne and John Hyden, 21-19, 21-17 in the men’s final.

The win marked the fifth Manhattan Beach Open title for Dalhausser, who is tied with a host of players for second all-time, three short of AVP legend Karch Kiraly. Dalhausser won this event with Todd Rogers from 2006-08 before his victory with  Rosenthal last year.

“We lost 10 years ago in the (AVP Manhattan Beach Open) final. We got a second chance and that’s why it makes this so sweet,” said Dalhausser, a Manhattan Beach resident who won his 47th AVP title and played in his seventh AVP Manhattan Beach Open final in 10 starts. “I’m coming, Karch!”

“This is the best. I’m very excited,” added Lucena, a Florida native, who won his fourth AVP — and first Manhattan Beach Open — championship.

Dalhausser/Lucena advanced to the final with a 21-14, 21-14 victory over the up-and-coming team of Trevor and Taylor Crabb. Playing in an AVP main draw for the first time, the Crabb brothers were seeded No. 13, the lowest seeded team to reach an AVP Manhattan Beach Open semifinal.

Bourne, a Manhattan Beach resident, and Hyden knocked off the tournament’s top two seeds during the weekend and defeated second-seeded Ryan Doherty and John Mayer, last week’s AVP Seattle Open champions, 23-21, 18-21, 15-11, in a semifinal match Sunday morning.

In the women’s final the Costa Mesa tandem of Ross and Jennifer Fopma defeated Nicole Branagh (Torrance) and Jenny Kropp (Manhattan Beach) 21-15, 26-24.

Ross, who will resume playing with partner Kerri Walsh-Jennings this week at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, has won 10 of the last 11 AVP tournaments. Walsh-Jennings skipped the Manhattan Beach Open while recovering from a shoulder injury.

Fopma won her third AVP tournament and first in Manhattan Beach.

Emily Day, of Hermosa Beach, reached the semifinals with partner Jennifer Kessy. Photo by Ray Vidal

Ross and Fopma reached the final after defeating  21-16, 23-21 victory over second-seeded Emily Day (Hermosa Beach) and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Jennifer Kessy (San Juan Capistrano) 21-16, 23-21.

Day, a former standout at West Torrance High School and Loyola Marymount University, said she had approximately 40 people —  including friends from high school and family from the East Coast — cheering her on.

“It’s awesome playing here. I grew up coming to this tournament,” Day said. “One of my top three goals in volleyball is to win the Manhattan Beach Open and get my name on the pier.”

Day said she and Kessy were tested throughout the tournament, including a tough first-round match when they had to come from behind to defeat the Redondo Beach duo of Rosalinda Masler and Janelle Allen 16-21, 21-17, 18-16.

“We always want to be in the finals and we finally found our rhythm Saturday afternoon,” Day said. “We just had trouble finishing the [semifinal] game. That’s something we have to work on as a team.”

Branagh and Kropp (a Smack Sponsored athlete since 2010), the 2011 and 2012 champion in Manhattan Beach, battled their way through the contender’s bracket after dropping a 21-17, 23-21 match to Tealle Hunkus (El Segundo) and Sheila Shaw (Redondo Beach) on Friday.

Branagh/Kropp reached the championship match after defeating the third-seeded team of Lane Carico (Manhattan Beach) and Summer Ross (Carlsbad) 21-16, 21-18 in the semifinals.

“Obviously, I’m a bit disappointed with the third-place finish and that we didn’t push ourselves to the finals,” said Carico who was excited to be playing in front of friends and family in her hometown.. “Overall, I think summer and I had a great tournament and continue to show progress.”

Playing in front of a hometown crowd, Lane Carico makes a dig during an AVP Manhattan Beach Open semifinal match. Photo by Ray Vidal

The Manhattan Beach Open was only the third tournament for Carico and Ross as a team, playing an FIVB tournament in Japan and their first AVP event in Seattle.

“We’re making small adjustments to our team system and things will get smoother,” Carico explained. “We have great chemistry and potential. I’m super excited to see what we can do.”

Sandwiched between the semifinals and finals, the Manhattan Beach Open Legends exhibition match was held featuring four-time AVP Manhattan Beach Open champion Randy Stoklos as the honorary coach and included past AVP Manhattan Beach Open champions Mike Dodd, Tim Hovland, Sinjin Smith and Steve Obradovich.

The AVP tour returns to Southern California Sept. 10-13 when the AVP Championships will be held at Huntington Beach.

by Randy Angel – Easy Reader