Koski, Minc earn showdown with Rogers and Dalhausser

The return of Ben Koski and Jeff Minc at the AVP Santa Barbara Open was supposed to be nothing but a fun, see-what-happens day in the qualifier’s bracket.

They had their share of fun, and it happened to lead to three wins and a berth in the main draw as the lowest-seeded qualifier (55th) to make it since 2007. What awaits them is no joking matter, as top-seeded Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser will be across the net in an all-Santa Barbara matchup on Friday morning at 9 a.m on the Stadium Court.

Jeff Minc, left, and Ben Koski play Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser at 9 a.m. Friday.

But nothing is ever really serious with the former Santa Barbara High and UCSB teammates, at least once they step on the sand.



Minc’s thoughts on the matchup between his fragile-kneed partner and the 6-foot-10 Dalhausser — arguably the world’s most dominant player — up at the net?

“Well, I think Ben is better looking and has nicer hair.”

The teams have played each other before in tournaments and numerous other times while training on East Beach. Koski and Minc even took a set off of Rogers and Dalhausser at a tourney in Hermosa Beach a few years back.

“We like playing Todd and Phil,” said Minc. “They’re good guys, and we’ve played against them so many times that we kind of know their game. Of all the top teams, we probably know their game the best.”

But Koski expected his knee would “swell up to the size of a cantaloupe” by Friday, and both still consider themselves retired from competition, with this one exception for the hometown event.

Meanwhile Rogers, a San Marcos High and UCSB grad, and Dalhausser have continued to make their case as one of the most dominant beach volleyball duos in history. The Olympic gold medalists are coming off of their 10th FIVB win — and first in Brazil — last weekend and finished in a tie for first at the AVP opener in Ft. Lauderdale two weeks ago (rain forced the final to be cancelled).

Through their grins and laughs on Thursday, Koski and Minc showed signs of their old form. They rolled through Tim Church and David DiPierro in 33 minutes, 21-7, 21-14, and then won their next two matches in three sets. Paul Araiza and Andy Northness surged to take the first set of the second match, but the local boys rallied to win 19-21, 21-14, 15-10. Last up was San Luis Obispo’s Sean Allstot and partner Lucas Black, who won the first game decisively, 21-16.

Minc won a joust to end a long rally that broke a 9-9 tie in the second set and Koski followed with an ace as they won the frame 21-19. They had a 12-10 lead in the third when Black went flying after a ball off the court and suffered what appeared to be a neck injury. He returned and made two big plays to tie the match at 12-12, but Koski and Minc won the next three points to extend their return another day.

Westmont alum Avery Drost rejoices after advancing to his first main draw.

DROST MAKES IT THROUGH: Westmont graduate Avery Drost, who picked up the game at East Beach just a few years ago, made his first ever main draw on Thursday. He and teammate Chris Icaza didn’t drop a set through their three victories, the last a 21-18, 22-20 decision over Alexi Gabriel and Ventura’s Hylas Smith.

Drost, 23, who recently moved from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica to hone his game, flopped down on his back in jubilation after the final point.

“Qualifying for the first time was even better than I thought it was going to be, especially because it’s in Santa Barbara,” he said. “I’m so glad I never made it anywhere else and I’m so glad it happened just like this.”

Santa Barbara’s Patti Cook passes during her third-round match.

Drost and Icaza will take on No. 2 Sean Scott and John Hyden at noon Friday.

OTHER LOCAL NAMES MOVING ON: Former UCSB libero Aaron Mansfield and teammate Seth Burnham survived on Thursday and will take on No. 7 John Mayer/Jeff Nygaard at 11 a.m. Friday.

Ex-Gaucho Dane Jensen and Scott Hill will face No. 6 Will Strickland/Aaron Wachtfogel at 11 a.m. Former Santa Barbara High standout David Fischer qualified with Vincent Robbins and take on No. 8 Casey Patterson/Kevin Wong at 9 a.m.

ON THE LADIES SIDE: Santa Barbaran Patti Cook made it to the final round of the qualifiers bracket with partner Jill Muhe, but fell to Mariko Coverdale/Chelsea Hayes. It was the furthest any local female players made it.

Dos Pueblos High’s Sammie Brown and Santa Barbara High’s Emily Rottman played their first-ever AVP qualifier but came up short against Michelle Hughes/Laurel Miller, 21-19, 21-11.

“They were a good team, and it was a good experience to come out and play,” said Brown.

The two will continue to play together in CBVA events this summer before heading off to start their college careers. Brown will play at Notre Dame while Rottman will suit up for the University of Virginia.