Jake Gibb gave a ringing endorsement for the resurrected AVP on Sunday.
“The AVP is back, what do you guys thinks?” Gibb bellowed to a cheering crowd after he and partner Sean Rosenthal swept Brad Keenan and John Mayer, 21-16, 21-16, 21-17, in a best-of-five sets men’s final at the $225,000 AVP Championships before a packed house at West Beach.
Gibb-Rosenthal put on a fan-pleasing performance, scrambling and diving all over the court for balls and mixing up their shots to frustrate Keenan and Mayer, who came into the final undefeated.
The sixth-seeded Gibb-Rosenthal split $42,500 for their title and No. 4 Keenan-Mayer shared $22,500.
The top-seeded women’s team of Jennifer Kessy and April Ross won the maximum prize total of $47,500 by going undefeated to complete a sweep of the two AVP events under new owner Donald Sun. Kessy-Ross, the London Olympics silver medalists, beat second-seeded Nicole Branagh and three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, 21-19, 21-6, in the Sunday morning women’s final.
Kessy-Ross lost to Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor in the gold medal match at the London Olympics last month. After winning a third goal medal, May Treanor retired after the Olympics.
Walsh Jennings and Branagh received $22,500 for their runner-up finish at the AVP Championships.
Kessy-Ross, who last week won the AVP Cincinnati Open, kept the serve on Branagh throughout the match and capitalized on her inconsistent passing.
“I wanted to serve tough, No. 1, regardless where it went, and air toward Nicole a little bit,” said Ross, who served a couple of aces down the stretch of the first set.
“That’s kind of our thing, serve tough and play good D,” Kessy said.
She noted that it was their first victory in Santa Barbara.
“We’ve been in the finals a couple of times here (and) never been victorious, and to come back and win the only two AVPs of the year, we’re ecstatic,” said Kessy.
Kessy-Ross continually hurt their opponents with deep shots.
“We conquered Santa Barbara and we feel really good about it,” Ross said.
Added Kessy: “We’re excited about winning that big paycheck at home — it’s huge. It’s like a grand slam overseas. We’re bringing that back to the U.S. and it’s awesome.”
Kessy-Ross, who’ve spent most of the last two years playing on the FIVB World Tour, were glad to be playing again in the U.S.
“It feels like home on the AVP,” said Ross. “This is where all the legends played through the decades and we want to play on it too. The fans want to come watch the best players in the U.S. and in the world play.”
On the play of Branagh-Jennings Walsh, Kessy said: “I thought they played fantastic. The first game they got a lot of breaks, they dug over on one, they served very tough, they did amazing things. We just had to stick with them and stick with them and we got lucky in the end.”
Gibb-Rosenthal had struggled in past AVP events in Santa Barbara, but on Sunday they were hot as the sand at West Beach. The athletic Rosenthal had the crowd oohing and ahhing with diving plays to keep rallies alive and his crushing hits.
“I’ve played with Sean for seven years and I love him like a brother,” Gibb said. “He’s amazing. I love playing with him because I love watching him play. I get removed from the game sometimes because of how athletic he is. I put him up against any athlete in the entire world. You can put up seven of the most athletic sports and he’ll beat anybody. He’s an amazing athlete.”
Gibb isn’t too shabby, either. His blocking gave the cannon ball-hitting 6-8 Keenan some problems and his setting was solid.
“He’s a great friend, a great player and a great partner,” Rosenthal said of Gibb. “We’ve been battling for seven years, gone to two Olympics together and done so many things together. It’s so much fun to back here on the AVP, playing in Santa Barbara and winning an AVP Championship.”
Added Gibb: “It’s been a long year for us and to finish it off as an AVP Champion is sweet,” said Gibb. “It means a lot to us. This is what we play for, this is what we live for. To play in front of a home crowd, we’re stoked.”