Burik-Toppel live up to top seeding, win S.B. Open

The tenacity of Mark Burik is bringing out the best in Curt Toppel.

With Burik covering the back court like a free safety, groveling on the sand to scoop crushing spikes and running down balls off blocks, Toppel stepped up his game and is finishing plays.

The top-seeded pair worked together beautifully in Saturday’s final of the California Beach Volleyball Association Santa Barbara Men’s Open and took down second-seeded Hawk Hatcher and Parker Kalmbach, 21-15, 21-17, in front of the Cabrillo Bath House.

“We’ve struggled to be really consistent in tournaments, and this was one where the entire the way through we were really strong and played steady,” said Burik.

“We played a consistent game all day, and my partner here did an excellent job siding out because I don’t get served that much,” said the 6-9 Toppel.

Dealing with Toppel’s smothering block and Burik’s dynamo defensive play, Hatcher and Kalmbach had a tough time stringing points together. In the first set, Burik-Toppel went on a 6-2 run to open up an 11-6 lead. In the second set, they went from 13-12 to an 18-14 advantage. On one bang-bang play during their scoring run, Burik sprawled to dig a Kalmbach hit off the top of the sand and the ball trickled over the net. Hatcher-Kalmbach reacted quickly and hit it back before Burik finished the rally with a delicate cut shot.

“We call him the sand crab,” said the former Stanford All-American of his partner’s defense. “He’s great back there. It’s nice to have a partner get the ball when a ball gets by me. I’ve had partners before where if a ball gets by me, I pretty much know it’s going down. Now I turn around and I expect the ball to be up, and most of the time it is. It’s a really good feeling. It’s a confidence. That’s a good partnership. With him on defense, we know that if they hit the ball in my area I’m going to do my job and block it. And if they hit around me, it’s his job to dig it. I think we’re doing a really good job at that and it’s getting better every day.”

Mark Burick makes a diving dig during the finals of the CBVA Santa Barbara Open.

Mark Burick makes a diving dig during the finals of the CBVA Santa Barbara Open.

Asked if he felt defense was the best part of his game, the Spider Tech-sponsored Burik replied: “It’s the most fun part of my game. I love scampering. There’s a 6-9 guy on the other side of the net and he hits his hardest ball and I scoop it up. I get a warm fuzzy feeling.”

Toppel said playing with Burik has raised the level of his beach game.

“I wasn’t taking it very seriously until I started playing with Mark,” he said.

“We get along really well,” said Burik, who played collegiately at George Mason University. “We kick each other in the ass when we need it but we play really loose together and we have an open flow of communication, so it works out really nice.”

Hatcher is a stellar defender as well. In the first set, he chased after a shanked dig, dived over a partition and bumped the ball back onto the court for Kalmbach to play over the net. As the rally continued, Hatcher-Kalmbach had an opportunity to score, but Hatcher’s cut shot skimmed off the tape and fell on their side.

“That’s a solid team, said Hatcher of  Burik-Toppel. “They’re professionals; they train together all the time. They’re cool guys and we know them really well. We’ll be out to get them next time.”

Hatcher said Burik-Toppel finished their semifinal match earlier and were more rested for the finals. They defeated Santa Barbara City College men’s volleyball coach Matt Jones and former UCSB player Jake Rosener. Hatcher-Kalmbach, meanwhile, survived a tough semifinal battle against former UCSB standouts Andy McGuire and Cullen Irons.

Mark Burik passes the ball as partner Curt Toppel looks on. (Presidio Sports photos)

Mark Burik passes the ball as partner Curt Toppel looks on. (Presidio Sports photos)

“It’s always an advantage when the other team is waiting for you to finish your match,” said Hatcher. “When you’re done, they say, ‘Let’s go.’”

The 6-7 Kalmbach, who completed his indoor career at Pepperdine in the spring, said the team was battling fatigue after a long day of matches

“At the end, there wasn’t a lot of energy on our side of the net, which was too bad,” he said. “They sided out better, we didn’t score points very well and that’s what happened.”

Despite the loss, the future seems bright for the Hatcher-Kalmbach partnership. In two tournaments this summer, they have a title and a runner-up finish.

“Parker and I are a really good team, we really are,” said Hatcher. “Choosing a coach that we both like is the next big step for us as a team.”

Burik and Toppel are looking to take their partnership to the international level of competition. They train in a USA Volleyball Elite Development Program, which develops Olympic hopefuls.

“That’s our hope. We’d like to go international,” said Toppel.

Their next outing will be the AVP Tournament in New York City.

In the quarterfinals, Burik-Toppel defeated Danny Kranda-Gabriel Ospini; Hatcher-Kalmbach beat Brendan Duff-Branden Clemons; Rosener-Jones topped Jacob Landel-Chicory Roth; McGuire-Irons knocked out Jorge Martinez-Andrew Dentler.