SALT LAKE CITY — Some of the top athletes in the world will be in town this week as the Pro Beach Volleyball Tour makes its first-ever appearance in Utah with three days full of matches at Liberty Park.
Loads of sand have been hauled in to create four courts on the east side of the park with bleachers around the two main courts. The competition gets underway Friday morning and matches will run all day with the finals set for Sunday afternoon.
Many local fans have heard of Jake Gibb, a Bountiful native and University of Utah grad who was ranked No. 1 in the world last year in the sport of pro beach volleyball. He’ll be playing with Casey Patterson, a BYU graduate, and they will be the No. 2 seeded team in the 16-team men’s tournament.
The top-seeded team is Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser. Rosenthal was Gibb’s partner for the past seven years before Rosenthal decided he wanted a partner closer to his age (33) and hooked up with Dalhausser.
The two teams have met three times this year, with Rosenthal-Dalhausser winning twice.
“If we both do our job we should see them in the final and have a showdown,’’ Gibb said.
On the women’s side, local fans may recognize Kerri Walsh Jennings, who along with Misty May Treanor captured three straight Olympic gold medals, in 2004, 2008 and most recently at the London Olympics. With Treanor retired, the 6-foot-3 Jennings is teaming with Whitney Pavlik of Laguna Hills, Calif., and they’ll be the No. 2 seeded team.
The top-seeded team of Jen Kessy and April Ross has played together six years and was the silver medalists at the London Olympics. Other top teams to watch for in the women’s draw are Jennifer Fopma-Brooke Sweat and Kristen Batt-Raquel Ferreira.
Other top teams on the men’s side include No. 3 seeds Ryan Doherty and Todd Rogers and No. 4 Brad Keenan and John Meyer
The semifinals will be Sunday morning with the women’s final set for 2 p.m. and men’s final to follow at 3 p.m.
Several Utah pairs competed in Thursday’s preliminary tournament at the Sports Mall in Murray, but among the Utahns only Brenda Whicker of Fruit Heights, who teamed with Airal Sprague of Seattle, advanced to the main draw
This weekend’s tournament is the first of seven on the AVP circuit, which was established in 1983. Next week the tour goes to Manhattan Beach, Calif., followed by events in Cincinnati, Atlantic City, St. Petersburg, Fla., Santa Barbara and Huntington Beach with the last event coming in mid-October.