A ton of uncertainty surrounded the AVP this summer -- right up until the last game of its only event of the year.
After the tour abruptly canceled the rest of its season last August, many wondered what would become of the strongest beach volleyball circuit the U.S. has ever known. In short, the AVP scaled back dramatically and opted for only one season-ending event in 2011, held Saturday in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Following Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Hanson's win over Jenny Kropp and Whitney Pavlik in the women's final (21-18, 18-21, 15-12), first-time partners Matt Prosser and Matt Olson shocked the tournament favorites, John Hyden and Sean Scott, in the men's final (23-25, 27-25, 15-13).
Not only was this Prosser and Olson's first tournament together, it came after less than a month of practice time. Prosser's regular partner, John Mayer, injured himself a few weeks ago, leading to Olson getting the call. Turns out it was the right one.
For Olson, it's just the second title of his career, the first coming in 2008 at the AVP Belmar Open with Kevin Wong. As for Prosser, this marks the first title of his career.
The guys on the other side of the net are used to taking home the jumbo-sized checks -- especially this summer. Hyden and Scott won eight of the 11 U.S. tournaments they entered. But their summer ends on a sour note.
In the semifinals -- or first round, considering only four men's and women's teams were invited -- Prosser and Olson topped Jake Gibb and Ty Loomis (21-19, 13-21, 16-14), while Hyden and Scott defeated Nick Lucena and Stein Metzger (18-21, 21-16, 15-11).
Yes, that Stein Metzger -- the 2004 Olympian and winner of 18 tournaments worldwide. Lucena's regular partner, Matt Fuerbringer, was unable to play this weekend, so Metzger filled in. Which was nice because according to the AVP, he's making a comeback. Metzger's last tournament was in 2009, but he and longtime friend Mike Lambert will be back on the sand together in 2012.
And if you're keeping track of unusual partnerships, Gibb and Loomis aren't regular teammates either. Gibb usually plays with Sean Rosenthal, his fellow 2008 Olympian who injured his knee at the last FIVB World Tour men's event of the year in Morocco three weeks ago.
The women offered up much less drama, both on and off the court. Judging by the world rankings, Fendrick and Hanson were the favorites to win in Huntington Beach, and they followed through for their third title in five domestic tournaments this season.
The only women's upset was Kropp and Pavlik taking out veterans Angie Akers and Nicole Branagh in the semifinals (21-18, 17-21, 15-11). Fendrick and Hanson defeated Kristen Batt and Brooke Sweat in the other semifinal (21-15, 21-10).