By Stephanie Wilks
September 4, 2012
Bump, set, spike it… that’s the way we like it! The Association of Volleyball Professionals hosted the first professional U.S. Open tourney since the Olympics, and the first AVP event since 2010 in Cincinnati over Labor Day weekend. At the Cincinnati Open it was tough to distinguish who was more excited– the fans or the players.
More than 170 of the country’s top beach volleyball players, including the top 18 men’s and women’s teams in the nation fiercely competed for placement prizes totaling $175,000. This year’s headliners were undoubtedly the 2012 Olympic silver medalist team comprised of April Ross and Jennifer Kessy and three-time gold medalist Kerri Walsh-Jennings.
Walsh-Jennings paired with partner Nicole Branagh for the first time in a professional Open since her former partner, Misty May-Treanor, retired after this year’s gold medal win in London. Olympic athletes Todd Rogers and partner Phill Dalhausser, along with Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal were also favorites. Lines to snatch photos and signatures from the players were around the block all weekend.
Beyond the enthusiasm to play back on U.S. soil, these athletes, organizers, and fans alike were excited that the future of beach volleyball seems bright. For those who don’t know, the AVP disbanded in 2010 after declaring bankruptcy. That left many unanswered questions about the sport. But the organization that propelled beach volleyball into the professional spotlight and into the Olympics (starting in 1996) has proved that the show will go on.
Donald Sun, the new owner of the AVP teamed up with ReachUSA CEO and president Bob Slattery, who was prepared to pull out all the stops for the Cincinnati Open at Washington Park. Working with the Cincinnati Development Corporation (3CDC) and Cincinnati Parks they orchestrated the construction of three sand volleyball courts, which required 1,000 tons of sand in the heart of Over the Rhine.
Previously held at the Lindner Family Tennis Center and Hahana Beach, this year’s downtown locale offered a festival-like feel with food and beverage sponsors, post-match music concerts, and scenic views of the nation’ best beach volleyball players competing amidst some of OTR’s most historic and architecturally-rich buildings, like Music Hall.
Instagram photo from Jon Harmon enjoying the vball in his backyard
The crowds were on the edge of their seats Sunday for the women’s finals where Ross and Kessy squared off against Walsh-Jennings and Branagh. Their matches were neck and neck early on, but Ross/Kessy ultimately grabbed the championship – proving that one gold medalist is no match for deep-rooted teamwork. The final scores were 21-11, 21-18.
Donald Sun, new owner of the AVP, with winners April Ross and Jen Kessy, and Bob Slattery, CEO/President of ReachUSA
Matt Fuerbringer going up for the monster block
Wrapping up the weekend with the men’s final, 1st seed team John Hyden and Sean Scott edged Olympic athletes Matt Fuerbringer and Nick Lucena for the win 21-17, 21-16.
For a full photo album of the Sunday finals, click HERE.
*Photo credits: Stephanie Wilks, Washington Park fb page, and Jon Harmonto top ↑