Walsh Jennings-Ross, Gibb-Patterson sweep to SB Open titles

The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are still three years away, but the new duo of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross set out an early warning sign that they will be a team to be reckoned with for a gold medal.

Welsh Jennings-Ross completed an impressive run through their first domestic tournament together, rolling past Jen Fopma and Brooke Sweat, 21-18, 21-10, in the women?s final of the AVP Santa Barbara Open on Sunday at West Beach.

?It?s just a new beginning, a fresh start,? said Walsh Jennings, who won three Olympic gold medals in sand volleyball with Misty May Treanor. ?This is an amazing way to start, winning in California, winning with April, and just starting on the right foot.?

Said Ross, an Olympic silver medalist: ?Winning in California is so special and to start off together like that at home just feels right. Each tournament, I think both of us we?re just hungry to get better as a team, and grow and learn. It?s new, so it?s really exciting.?

In the men?s title match, Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson won their fourth straight AVP tournament, beating John Hyden and Tri Bourne, 21-19, 21-19. Gibb-Patterson, who lost to Hyden-Bourne on Saturday, claimed two titles over the weekend. They also won the suspended St. Petersburg, Fla. Open on Thursday at West Beach.

Jake Gibb celebrates winning the AVP Santa Barbara Open title with partner Casey Patterson.

Jake Gibb celebrates winning the AVP Santa Barbara Open title with partner Casey Patterson.

The men?s teams battled point-for-point in both sets. A dink by Gibb gave his team a 20-19 lead in the first set. Then came the play of the set. Hyden blocked Gibb and the ball rolled along the net toward the right post. Patterson hustled along the net and flipped the ball back to Gibb, who pushed it over for the winning point.

?That comes from a long time playing indoor volleyball and playing off the hands and learnng how to run balls down,? Patterson said. ?All I was thinking was just touch this ball and Jake can keep it in and get it over.?

Said Gibb of the play: ?It was ridiculous. There?s two things Casey does better than anybody in the world: First, he hand sets and he puts away balls at the end of games. He makes plays at the end of games. He?s very special to have on my squad.?

The second set also involved an amazing play outside the sideline. With a 19-17 lead, Patterson dug a ball and it sailed over the net and outside Hyden-Bourne?s sideline. An alert Gibb raced under the net, bumped it back to his side of the court, making sure it traveled outside the net antennae to make it legal.

Patterson moved over and ripped the ball, but Hyden got it up with an incredible chicken-wing dig.

?Boy, I wanted to finish that,? Patterson said. ?John Hyden got an absolute butter chicken wing. There were a lot of cool rallies.?

?That was so sick,? Gibb chimed in.

?I knew it was outside the antenna, but I didn?t know i could get to it,? Gibb said of chasing after the ball on the other side of the net. Looking at Patterson, he added. ?I threw it back and you swung on it. That was sick.?

Bourne chased the ball and bumped it back to Hyden, who shoveled it over the net. Patterson got the set and slammed the ball off Bourne?s block. Hyden threw his body to the sand and scooped ball, and Bourne ripped it off Patterson?s hands for the point.

The 40-year-old Hyden played like a spring chicken to keep his team alive in the final. On the next play, he scrambled to pick up a Gibb dink, got up and pushed Bourne?s set over the net. But Patterson made a one-arm reaction dig that went over the net and off the flailing arm of Bourne. That put the champions up 20-18.

Hyden hit a deep shot for 20-19 before Patterson buried a Gibb set for the championship point.

It was the second straight Santa Barbara Open win for Gibb. He won last year with Sean Rosenthal.

Gibb said he feels rejuvenated playing with Patterson.

?He?s got so much energy and so much life, how could you not be,? he said. ?I?m old enough where I can sit back and throw my feet up and enjoy these moments. I?ve never won three in a row in my career and I have four in a row.?

Walsh Jennings-Ross swept all five of their matches in winning in their American debut ? they played together once this year on the FIVB World Tour. It was a repeat victory for Ross, who won last year?s Santa Barbara Open with Jen Kessy, beating Walsh Jennings and Nicole Branagh in the final.

Walsh Jennings-Ross were a devastating pair. Ross scored lots of points with her killer serve and Walsh Jennings controlled the net, cutting and poking the ball away from Fopma-Sweat, ?burying hard-angle spikes and stuffing attacks.

“It?s so rad,” said Walsh Jennings of being on the other side of Ross’ serve. “Oh my God, she?s pressured me so many times in finals and in huge matches. It?s just so nice. This is too easy.? We don’t live and die off that serve. We have a complete game, (but) it?s? a huge, huge weapon.”

Ross added that she’s happy not to be going up against Walsh Jennings at the net.

“It?s really nice to be on same side of her block.”

The final point of the first set was spectacular. Walsh Jennings dived to pick up a ball hit off the block and she bumped it ?right on the net for Ross to put away.

“It?s as good as could be expected, in my mind,” said Ross of the new partnership.