Rogers-Doherty take momentum into Manhattan Open

Todd Rogers couldn’t have been happier playing on American sand again.

He certainly showed it in the first AVP Tour event of the season last weekend in Utah. Rogers, the former San Marcos High and UCSB star, and 7-foot-1 partner Ryan Doherty finished second to Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal, pushing the top seeds to three sets before falling 21-12, 19-21, 15-10, in the final of the inaugural Salt Lake City Open pro beach volleyball tournament.

It was Rogers and Doherty’s best result together since a runner-up finish in their debut in a FIVB regional event in the Cayman Islands back in March. They struggled on the FIVB World Tour. Their best finish was a ninth in the tournament in Long Beach last month.

The AVP Tour is beginning its second year under owner Donald Sun, who brought the tour back with two events last summer. There are five tour stops this year, including Santa Barbara, Sept. 28-29.

“Awesome!” Rogers replied when asked how nice it was to play on a domestic tour again. “I went past 100,000 miles on the way home from the FIVB event in Berlin. I would much rather have the short flight to Salt Lake or short drive down to Manhattan Beach.”

The next AVP Tour event is this weekend in Manhattan Beach, where Rogers’ name is enshrined in the venerable pier’s Walk of Fame three times for winning “the Wimbledon of beach volleyball.” He won all three Manhattan Opens with Dalhausser, his gold-medal partner at the 2008 Olympics.

After placing 25th in Berlin, Rogers and Doherty regrouped and put together a string of good performances in Salt Lake.

“We played better and better as the weekend progressed, and that is a good sign,” he said.

The highlight for them was a 24-22, 21-18 semifinal win over the “home” team of Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson. Gibb is from Bountiful, Utah, and Patterson played collegiately at BYU, so they had the crowd rooting for them.

“I got two red cards, the fans were heckling us big time — par for the course in Utah,” Rogers said. “I used to play vs. BYU, and they were the gnarliest hecklers; no bad words, but they’d be all over us.”

Gibb gave props to Rogers for his play in the semifinal.

“He played really well, the best I’ve seen him play all year,” Gibb told the Deseret News. “You got to give it to him. The guy has a gold medal for a reason. He’s a great player.’

Rogers said it was one of his most satisfying wins in some time.

As for his partner, who is playing his first full season as a professional beach volleyball player, Rogers said Doherty has improved “a ton. The scary part is he still has a long, long way to go as well.”

Doherty had some difficulty adjusting to the level of competition and the lighter ball on the international tour, according to Rogers.

They’ll get their hands on the Wilson AVP ball and be back on a beach this weekend in Manhattan Beach.

So, after a good showing in Salt Lake City, does Rogers feel confident they’ll be able to keep it going at the Manhattan Open?

“Kind of,” he admitted. “The serving wasn’t as tough due to the elevation, and I think that helps us. Plus, the sand was pretty packed and Manhattan is deep. I love the deep stuff but Ryan has said he doesn’t.

“We will see.”