AVP Tour is back in Santa Barbara

Pro beach volleyball returns to town this weekend as the AVP Tour comes to West Beach for the Santa Barbara Open.

The action begins Thursday morning with men’s and women’s qualifying tournaments to  fill four spots in Friday’s main draw.  Also on Thursday, the men’s final of the St. Petersburg Open will be completed. The title match between Jake Gibb-Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner-Nick Lucena two weeks ago in Florida was suspended because of severe weather. They were in the middle of the second set when play was called. Gibb-Patterson won the first set.

Brunner is a former UCSB All-American.

Friday’s main draw action begins at 11 a.m. Play on Saturday starts at 9 a.m. and Sunday begins at 11 a.m., with the finals scheduled at 3:30 p.m. for the women and 4:30 for the men.

Admission is free. VIP section tickets available will be available at $40 a day.

The weekend will mark the first time local star Todd Rogers plays with new partner, 7-foot-1 Ryan Doherty, in a Santa Barbara tournament. They started playing together this spring after Rogers and Phil Dalhausser ended their incredible seven-year partnership, which included an Olympic gold medal, AVP championships and world championships.

Rogers-Doherty have taken a second and a pair of thirds on the AVP Tour.

The tournament also will be the AVP debut of the women’s team of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross. Walsh Jennings won three Olympic gold medalist with Misty May Treanor, who retired after their win at the London Games. They defeated Ross and Jen Kessy for the gold. Walsh Jennings and Ross plan to make a run for gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This is the sixth of seven events on the AVP Tour. With the St. Petersburg title still to be decided, Gibb-Patterson have the most wins on tour with two, while Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal, and Casey Jennings and Matt Fuerbringer have one each.

On the women’s side, Kessy-Ross have two titles. Walsh Jennings-Whitney Pavlik, and Emily Day-Summer Ross have one tourney crown. There was no women’s final in Florida, so finalists Kessy-April Ross and Day-Summer Ross split the first-place earnings.

The men’s qualifier has 30 teams while 19 teams are entered for the women’s qualifier.

Santa Barbaran Jeremy Casebeer and Andy McGuire, the libero on UCSB’s 2011 NCAA men’s volleyball finalist team, are the second-seeded team in the men’s qualifier draw behind AVP veterans Matt Olson and Ed Ratledge. Santa Barbara’s Will Montgomery and Avery Drost are the No. 3 seed.

Other locals entered are UCSB alum Cullen Irons, playing with Lucas Black, the East Beach duo of Dillan Bennett and John Hancock, and Tim Nestlerode of East Beach and partner Jeff Steffens.

There are no local women’s teams, although several players have competed in tournaments in Santa Barbara. Former UCSB star Brooke Niles is the main draw with partner Kim DiCello.