Todd Rogers has played professional beach volleyball all over the world, recording some huge tournament wins during his long, illustrious career.
The 2008 Olympics gold medal in China would obviously rank at the top of his list of accomplishments.
The AVP Santa Barbara Open has a couple places on Rogers’ top-10 list.
This weekend, the San Marcos and UCSB alum returns to the place of two of his greatest triumphs, to see if he can create another memorable moment for the home fans.
The AVP Santa Barbara Open kicks off Thursday at West Beach with qualifiers for four open spots in the men’s and women’s main draws. The tournament starts Friday morning and runs through Sunday, with the finals slated at 3:30 p.m. for the women and 4:30 p.m. for the men.
Rogers will be playing with 7-foot-1 Ryan Doherty. In five AVP Tour events, their best finishes are a second and a pair of thirds.
On a list of 78 career victories, the 2006 and 2010 Santa Barbara Open titles have special significance for Rogers.
Going into the 2006 event, Rogers had finished as runner-up four times in Santa Barbara — twice with Dax Holdren (2000-01) and two more times with Sean Scott (2004-05). He finally broke through with Phil Dalhausser. They beat John Hyden and Jeff Nygaard for that elusive title.
“That was really, really special because Hannah, my daughter, was there and (my wife) Melissa was there,” Rogers recalled fondly while taking a break from training at East Beach for this weekend’s tournament. “She came running out on the court as my daughter was leaping into my arms.”
Rogers was on fire in the final, delivering 18 kills and hitting nearly .500.
“I was a bridesmaid so many times,” he said. “I got the monkey off my back in that one. That was a very special one, a top-10 moment for sure.”
The 2010 final was a comeback for the ages. Rogers and Dalhausser were facing defeat as they trailed 14-9 in the 15-point third set against John Hyden and Brad Keenan.
What happened after that was truly amazing. Dalhausser took over at the net, blocking balls straight down. Rogers dug any ball that got past his partner, and they converted those plays into points.
The crowd, sensing something magical was happening, was going wild.
“Being down 14-9, we were making the assumption, ‘Alright, this game is probably a done deal. We’re going to lose, whatever; they played great,’” Rogers recalled of being on the verge of defeat.
Once they started making plays and scoring points, they started feeling the energy from the crowd.
That changed everything.
“All of a sudden you can feel the crowd get kind of antsy, and Phil and I are going, ‘Alright, let’s see what happens.’ It’s 14-13 and you can see John and Brad are in a tizzy, saying to themselves, ‘What’s going on?’” Rogers said.
Once they tied the score at 14-14, it was anybody’s game. Rogers-Dalhausser won the set 20-18 to steal the title from the jaws of defeat.
“Getting that 14th point was huge and taking it all the way and winning that thing, that was big,” Rogers said. “That was really cool. That was definitely one of my top -10 moments in beach volleyball.”
He recalled another big comeback he had with Dax Holdren in the final of the 2001 Hermosa Beach Open.
“Dax and I were down 13-7 in the third in 2001 and we came back and won that one,” he said.
Rogers-Dalhausser would win a third Santa Barbara Open in 2010, beating Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal in straight sets.
Can Rogers recreate the magic with Doherty this weekend at West Beach?
It certainly would be one heck of a 40th birthday present. His birthday is Monday.
“I don’t have any expectations,” he said. “I just go into each match and play the best I can and go from there.”