By Geoffrey Nielsen
There's a reason that beach volleyball players consider the Manhattan Beach Open the crown jewel of beach volleyball tournaments. The deep sand combined with the hot sun has been known to break down even the most well conditioned player.
Then surround them with thousands of knowledgable fans, at a tournament that is the longest-running ode to beach volleyball, and players, those who play on the AVP tour and the amateurs who show up to qualify for the prestigious Open, have to stand up to the time-honored traditions that are the MB Open.
Indeed, winning south of the pier is a truly great accomplishment, and Saturday at the 55th annual AVP Manhattan Beach Open was no exception.
With the sun beating down mercilessly, the six-time and reigning Open winner Kerri Walsh Jennings and her partner April Ross continued this season's dominance in the 2014 AVP Tour and advanced rather easily as they dispatched the fifth seeded Lane Carico and Kim DiCello 21-12 and 21-15 to to advance to Sunday's semifinal match at 10 a.m.
"We've had a good season and we want to continue that run, especially here," said Ross, who was a 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist. "Manhattan Beach is where you become a legend. This tournament is the best tournament in our sport, and winning here is what we work for every day in the off season."
For Walsh Jennings, who with Ross have not dropped a match on the AVP this summer and is also the FIVB number one ranked team, winning is nothing new but even Walsh Jennings is left shaking her head when asked if she thought this team would be this dominant this fast.
"I knew we would be good but I never thought we would be this good this fast," Walsh Jennings, who is the reigning three-time Olympic Gold Medal winner with former partner Misty-May Treanor, said. "April is an amazing player and we complement each other well. We are playing really well together. Hopefully we can keep it up and win tomorrow."
In the contender's bracket, Carico, a rising star on the AVP Tour who is a Manhattan Beach native, and DiCello face off against Nicole Branagh and Amanda Dowdy, with the right to face Walsh Jennings and Ross. While Summer Ross and Emily Day are taking on Kathryn Piening and Megan Wallin-Brockway for the chance to take on second-seeded Brooke Sweat and Lauren Fendrick.
"It's going to a fun day tomorrow," Ross said. "I really want to get my name up there with Kerri."
On the men's side, the FIVB number one team in the world of Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser advanced to the semi-finals on Sunday and await the winner of the Tri Bourne/Jon Hyden and Billy Allen/Trevor Crabb match while on the other side of the bracket fourth-seeded John Mayer and Brad Keenan continue to turn heads and await the winner of Todd Rogers/Theo Brunner and Adrian Carambula/Stafford Slick.
"Today was very physically demanding," Rosenthal, who is a Redondo Beach native, said. "I knew I needed to be in better shape this season and thankfully today that hard work paid off because it was hot out there today."
After several lackluster Open tournaments, the tournament is back with the best players in the United States.
"Growing up down the street, I understand the tradition of Manhattan and to me there is no better place to win," Rosenthal said. "Olympics, FIVB and other events are amazing but none of these are possible without Manhttan Beach and that's why the best players in our sport are here."
Sunday's schedule includes final rounds and finals play from 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a Legends game at 11:30 a.m., followed by the women's and men's finals.
The men’s and women’s finals will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network at 1 p.m. PT (women’s final; men’s final to follow at 2 p.m.). General admission is free and Club AVP passes are sold out for Saturday and Sunday.
The AVP Manhattan Beach Open is the fourth of seven tournaments on the 2014 AVP Tour schedule. Supporters of the 2014 MB Open include smart USA, Paul Mitchell, Bud Light, Barefoot, HyperX, AQUAHydrate, Luvo and Whole Foods. The MB Open began in 1960 and is in its 54th year.