Casebeer, Brunner win AVP awards

Jeremy Casebeer had a breakout season on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour.

Jeremy Casebeer had a break-out season on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. (AVP photos)

Santa Barbara’s Jeremy Casebeer and Theo Brunner were recognized for their play on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour with year-end awards.

Casebeer was named the tour’s Most Improved Player in 2014, while Brunner earned the Best Blocker Award for the second straight season.

Casebeer, 25, a Santa Barbara High and UCLA graduate, had a break-out season, taking a third in Cincinnati, a fifth-place in Milwaukee and St. Petersburg, Fla., and a seventh at the Manhattan Open with partner Casey Jennings.

Theo Brunner  (hitting), repeated as winner of the Best Blocker award.

Theo Brunner (hitting), repeated as winner of the Best Blocker award.

The 6-5 Casebeer established himself as a threat in tournament main draws after spending much of the 2013 season battling through qualifiers. He finished 12th in the AVP player rankings.

Brunner played with Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers. The 6-7 former UCSB indoor volleyball star stuffed  his opponents 163 times, putting him at the top of the list among men’s players. His 2.12 blocks-per-game average was also No. 1 on the tour.

Brunner and Rogers finished second at the Manhattan Open and third in Salt Lake City.

Another player with local ties that was honored was Nick Lucena. He was named the tour’s Best Defender for the second time in his career. He picked up a tour-best 447 digs this summer. His 5.52 digs-per-game average ranked third behind Jennings and Rogers.

Here are the other AVP award winners:

Jake Gibb, Most Valuable Player
Jake Gibb-Casey Patterson, Team of the Year
Tri Bourne, Best Offensive Player
Jeremy Casebeer, Most Improved Player
Brad Keenan, Best Server
Theo Brunner, Best Blocker
Nick Lucena, Best Defender
Trevor Crabb, Newcomer of the Year

April Ross, Most Valuable Player
April Ross-Kerri Walsh Jennings, Team of the Year
Kerri Walsh Jennings, Best Offensive Player
Kim DiCello, Most Improved Player
April Ross, Best Server
Lauren Fendrick, Best Blocker
Brooke Sweat, Best Defender
Amanda Dowdy, Newcomer of the Year