This tournament coincided with the last stop of the four-part international King of the Court Crown Series. The fast-paced competition created by Netherlands-based company, SportworX, brought together the biggest names in beach volleyball from all around the globe as athletes put on their best performance in front of a packed house at the legendary Huntington Beach Pier.
“Ending our tour in Huntington Beach is very special because the people from here are true beach volleyball fans. You can see that they absorb the sport with the kind of full body and mind that we don’t see in the rest of the world. We are so happy to give them the experience of King of the Court and introduce this kind of entertainment to them,” said Wilco Nijland, chief operating officer, SportworX and creator of the King of the Court Crown Series.
Saturday’s gameplay involved the Group Phase portion of the format as 4 pools from each gender battled it out to earn their spot in Sunday’s semifinals and finals competition. The first day of the tournament kept everyone on their toes with nonstop movement, thrilling rallies and stand-on-your-feet plays. “For us, King of the Court is so much fun because it requires a lot of improvisation where as in a normal tournament we have to watch video and prepare. This is just straight volleyball and skill – you have to take it one play at a time and we have so much fun playing it. We hope the crowd enjoys it,” said Sarah Pavan of Canada. “I really like when the time starts running out and there are teams that are really, really close. You can kind of see the desperation and the panic start to set in and just to see who can manage to squeak out the crucial points at the end is so exciting.”
On the men’s side, Pablo Herrera & Adrian Gavira from Spain displayed a dominant performance by setting the record for most consecutive stay on the King side with 26 points, breaking the previous record set by Sara Hughes and Summer Ross in Hawaii the weekend prior with 20 consecutive points. Norwegian team and No. 1 ranked in the world, Anders Mol & Christian Sorum also had a nail-biting performance when they narrowly squeaked through to advance to the semifinals after a massive comeback in the final round by earning 12 straight points. The constant changes from the King Side (winner’s) to the Challenger Side, along with dancers, court jesters, jugglers and special effects entertained the crowd from morning until evening. The teams that advanced to Sunday’s competition were:
Sarah Pavan / Melissa Humana-Paredes (CAN)
Azusa Futami / Akiko Hasegawa (JPN)
Sara Hughes / Summer Ross (USA)
April Ross / Alix Klineman (USA)
Brittany Howard / Kelly Reeves (USA)
Kelley Larsen / Emily Stockman (USA)
Joy Stubbe / Marleen Van Iersel (NED)
Amanda Dowdy / Irene Pollock (USA)
Agatha Bednarczuk / Eduardo ‘Duda’ Lisboa (BRA)
Madelein Meppelink / Sanne Keizer (NED)
Pablo Herrera / Adrian Gavira (SPA)
Saymon Barbosa / Guto Carvalhaes (BRA)
Jake Gibb / Taylor Crabb (USA)
Eric Zaun / Piotr Marciniak (USA)
Anders Mol / Christian Sorum (NOR)
Nico Beeler / Marco Krattiger (SUI)
Reid Priddy / Jeremy Casebeer (USA)
Tri Bourne / Trevor Crabb (USA)
Casey Patterson / Stafford Slick (USA)
Aleksandrs Samoilovs / Martins Plavins (LAT)
Sunday’s crowd poured into Stadium Court early in the morning with beach locals and fans eager to watch Olympic-level volleyball. The winning teams had the honor of being crowned the Kings and Queens of Huntington Beach along with receiving a piece of the $150,000 prize purse. Every team was required to work and stay in the game until the very end and called for the utmost endurance. The competition was no less intense than its traditional format counterpart, and no team was safe however much of a lead they kept.
Women’s Canadian team Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes looked strong all weekend and dominated the first round of the Women’s final. However, April Ross, known for having arguably one of the best serves in the world along with partner and 2017 AVP Rookie of the Year, Alix Klineman, maintained their cool composure to stay alive after having zero points for the majority of the round. The A-Team battled back to take Rounds 2 and 3 by storm. Though Pavan / Humana-Paredes prevented the A-Team from ending the final round and kept the Americans at a 14-point freeze for the remaining minutes on the clock, April and Alix were still able to clinch the win as Queens of the Court Huntington Beach.
The Men’s finals unraveled to be an American-dominated pool with three US teams making it in including crowd favorites Reid Priddy and Jeremy Casebeer, Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb who faced off against his brother Trevor Crabb and partner Tri Bourne. In the first round, the Spaniards Herrera / Gavira dominated once again by leading with 21 points. The Europeans took control of the second round leaving it to the Americans to fight for Round 3, where the lowest scoring team of Casebeer / Priddy got the job done near the end of Round 1, beating out Bourne / Tr. Crabb in Round 2 for their place in the final. Casebeer / Priddy were unable to make it past the second round. Though defending champions Gibb / Crabb barely qualified for the first and second rounds, they proved that a stronger finish counted more than a strong start. They found their rhythm in the final round against the Europeans and were able to defend their King of the Court title with a comfortable lead over their opponents. “This format is physically demanding but it’s a lot of fun,” said a visibly elated Gibb, a long-time Huntington Beach resident. “The best part about playing on my home turf is hearing people cheer for me and recognizing who those voices belong to. I’m so stoked right now.”
Following the energy-high finals was a beach party DJ set from the world-renowned DJs Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano. Their performance closed out the 2018 King of the Court Crown Series as the fans, athletes and staff danced the summer season away. The 2018 season was one that will be talked about in the many years to come.