SALT LAKE CITY — The much-anticipated potential Sunday showdown between former partners Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal is still on track in the men’s bracket of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball tournament at Liberty Park after each player’s team advanced with a pair of victories Saturday.
Gibb, a Bountiful native and University of Utah graduate, and partner Casey Patterson, a BYU graduate, advanced with a pair of two-game victories, while Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser moved on despite a close call in their first match Saturday. Those two are the only unbeaten men's teams in the double-elimination tournament.
Meanwhile, a match between the top two seeds on the women’s side will take place much earlier than expected after both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams were upset Saturday.
The Olympic silver medalist team of April Ross and Jen Kessy will meet three-time gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings and her partner Whitney Pavilk Sunday at 9 a.m., with the winner going on to the semifinals in the double-elimination tournament. The winner of a semifinal match against eighth-seeded Christal Engle and Tealle Hunkus goes on to the 2 p.m. finals.
The crowds were large and the action fierce as fans had to choose between four matches Saturday afternoon featuring the remaining unbeaten teams. The largest, and certainly the most raucous, crowd watched Gibb and Patterson take on the sixth-seeded team of Tri Bourne and John Hyden on Court 3. Bourne and Hyden had upset the No. 3-seeded team of 2008 gold medalist Todd Rogers and 7-foot-1 former professional baseball pitcher Ryan Doherty during morning play.
Bourne and Hyden took an early lead and stayed right with Gibb and Patterson until the latter two broke a 19-19 tie with two straight points. Then in the second game, they held off a late rally to win 21-17.
Like he did the day before, Gibb gave all the credit to his teammate, Patterson, the former BYU standout, with whom he started playing with earlier this year.
“I think my partner was super aggressive and super fired up and he just carried us to that win,’’ Gibb said. “He’s so new breaking on to the tour that they don’t know how to deal with him. He’s opening eyes everywhere. He really is playing well.’’
Patterson, with his distinctive blond mohawk, seemed to feed off the partisan crowd with his energetic play.
“It was awesome with the energy of the crowd,’’ he said. “It’s always good to put on a little show for everyone. We are where we want to be. We keep getting better every match, so I think the momentum is on our side right now.’’
All week people have been talking about a possible finals match between Gibb- Patterson and Rosenthal-Dalhausser. Gibb and Rosenthal were partners for seven years before Rosenthal decided to team with Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, after last year.
However, both teams still need to win matches Sunday to get to the final.
“That match was huge because now we can’t see Phil until the final because they’re on the other side,’’ Gibb said. “Now we’ve got a big match ahead of us.’’
Gibb and Patterson will face the winner of Sunday morning’s match between Andrey Belov-Adam Roberts and Rogers-Doherty. That match begins at 12:30, with the winner advancing to the 3 p.m. men’s final.
Rosenthal and Dalhausser beat Theofore Brunner and Nick Lucena, 21-16, 19-21, 15-8, in the morning before cruising past Belov and Roberts in the afternoon, 21-13, 21-7.
While things are going pretty much as expected on the men’s side, everything is jumbled up on the women’s side.
The top-seeded team of Ross and Kessy was knocked off by Engle and Hunkus in a three-game match in the morning. However, they stayed alive with a win over Kristen Batt-Raquel Ferreira late Saturday afternoon to earn a shot at Jennings and Pavlik Sunday morning.
Walsh Jennings, the biggest name in the tournament, was disappointed in her play in a 22-20, 21-14 loss to third-seeded Jennifer Fopma and Brooke Sweat.
“It was just not good volleyball,’’ Walsh Jennings said. “I was very ineffective and we couldn’t capitalize on anything — just timid. You can never win that way.’’
Fopma and Sweat meet the winner of the Lauren Fendrick-Brittany Hochevar vs. Lane Carico-Heather Hughes match at 11:30, with the winner advancing to the finals at 2 p.m.
NOTES: The men’s and women’s finals will be broadcast starting at 2 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network, which will be the AVP’s first televised matches since 2010. ... The winning men's and women's teams each receive $15,000. ... Tickets are $10 at the gate. ... Besides the main matches Saturday, a 4-on-4 pro-am exhibition game partnered by the John Wayne Cancer Foundation was held on the center court with Gibb and Mike Nelson, both cancer survivors, participating with others who have survived cancer, including KUTV anchor Mary Nickles. ... Next week the AVP Tour goes to Manhattan Beach, Calif., for the second stop on the seven-tournament schedule.