HERMOSA BEACH, Ca. — Trevor Crabb doesn’t do guarantees anymore. After a spur-of-the-moment, poorly-planned guarantee heading into the 2022 Atlanta Gold Series — which followed, of course, a third consecutive guarantee come true with a win in Fort Lauderdale — Crabb retired from the guarantee game. In the lead-up to this weekend’s AVP Hermosa Beach Open, however, he did offer up a prediction, which is sort of the politically correct version of a guarantee.
“I’m predicting a Crabb vs. Crabb final,” he wrote on social media, a post which was followed, appropriately, by a pair of videos produced by the McKibbin Brothers labeling him as the villain of beach volleyball.
Every sport has its villain, its foil. How many have a villain with the eerie prescience of Trevor Crabb? Eleven days after Crabb predicted an all-family final, the beach volleyball world was treated to exactly that, as Crabb and Theo Brunner met Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander in front of a packed stadium court whose line to get in snaked all the way to the Hermosa Beach strand.
Per usual, the Crabb feast delivered, as Crabb and Brunner won, 19-21, 21-13, 15-10 in an excellent final.
The victory was a significant one for a number of reasons.
Brunner has now won three consecutive Hermosa Beach Opens in which he’s played, dating back to 2018 when he and John Hyden beat Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty in a tremendous final. He skipped 2019 to play the Vienna Major, and it would be Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson who took victory in his absence. Last year, however, he and Chaim Schalk won their first and only AVP as a team in Hermosa, knocking off — guess who? — Taylor Crabb and Sander. One season later, Hermosa would again prove to be the grounds on which Brunner won his first event with a new partner.
“We live in Redondo Beach, and we train here every day, so these are our conditions, this is our sand, this is our wind,” Brunner said. “To be able to play and compete at the high level, like we train every day of every year for the last ten years is awesome.”
Brunner was, statistically, playing at as high of a level as possible. He led the tournament in hitting percentage (.633) by nearly 14 percentage points, finished second in blocks per set (2.57), and hit just 2 errors in 49 attacking attempts. It was his blocking, which was uncharacteristically quiet all tournament, that turned the final.
Crabb and Sander navigated Brunner’s block well in the 21-19 opening set win, hitting .536 as a team while only getting blocked a single time.
“I tell you what happened,” Brunner said. “I guessed wrong every time in the first set and then I began guessing right in the second and third sets.”
Trevor Crabb wasn’t amused by his partner’s notorious streak of self-deprecation. He knows guessing had nothing to do with what happened next: two blocks and a pair of soft blocks in the second set, five more stuff blocks in the third. The hitting percentage of Crabb and Sander dipped from .536 to .250 to .125 as Brunner adjusted and the Taylors failed to readapt.
“I think he had a good read on the little bro,” Trevor Crabb said. “He took over the game, all I had to do was keep the side-out at a good number and I think I did that.”
Indeed, Trevor Crabb led all players with a .600 hitting percentage in the finals, killing 20 of 30 balls with just two errors.
It was, as the results indicate, the best Crabb and Brunner have performed all year. They lost just two sets all weekend, both to Crabb and Sander, once in the quarterfinals and the other in the finals. It’s a type of performance they’ll need to sustain, as Hermosa is only the beginning of a crowded stretch of tournaments for every player aspiring to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Crabb and Brunner, as well as Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk — who finished third — Taylor Crabb and Sander, Miles Evans and Chase Budinger — who finished fifth — Troy Field and Evan Cory — who finished ninth — and Tim Brewster and Kyle Friend — who also finished ninth — will be boarding a flight tonight for Portugal, bound for next weekend’s Espinho Challenge.
Corinne Quiggle, Sarah Schermerhorn win first AVP title in Hermosa Beach
While Trevor Crabb must be given significant credit for his correct — again — prediction of the men’s final matchup, not even the most prescient of prognosticators could have foreseen the anarchy that occurred in the women’s field. With the top four teams gone competing in the Gstaad Elite16, parity was the word of the weekend for the women.
Chaos predictably ensued. The 16 seed, Jaden Whitmarsh and Devon Newberry, claimed the opening set off top-seeded Kelley Kolinske and Hailey Harward. While Harward and Kolinske would wind up winning, the tone for the weekend had been set. In that first round alone, the 12 seed, Macy Jerger and Megan Rice, beat the five, the 13, Savvy Simo and Megan Rice, stunned the four, and the 14, Carly Kan and Lexy Denaburg, nearly toppled the three in Zana Muno and Deahna Kraft.
Hermosa was never expected to be a chalk walk on the women’s side. But the mess that ensued this weekend was wilder than anyone could have predicted, resulting in a semifinal that featured the 13 playing the 14 and the seven playing the six.
Through it all, Corinne Quiggle and Sarah Schermerhorn emerged unscathed, dropping just two sets en route to their first win as a team and as individual players in one of the wildest AVP tournaments in recent memory.
When all was said and done, and all 29 matches were played, there were a total of 16 on-paper upsets, including Kan and Denaburg, the 14, beating the 11, 1, 10, and 2, all in a row; Newberry and Whitmarsh, the 16, beating the 8 and the 3; Katie Horton and Brook Bauer, the 9, beating the 8 and the 1; and, most surprising of all, Savvy Simo and Megan Rice, the 13 haphazardly thrown together after Toni Rodriguez pulled out with a knee injury, stunning the 4, 12, and 9 to make the semifinals, where they’d meet, of all teams, 14th-seeded Kan and Denaburg.
Take a breath.
In the end, it seemed, team chemistry prevailed. Schermerhorn and Quiggle have played in more tournaments as a team than every other pair in the field. Rice was playing in the first main draw of her career, after losing in qualifiers in New Orleans, Huntington Beach, and Denver. Her and Simo had never once stepped on a court together. (Note: Rodriguez is fine; she was being cautious with the Espinho Challenge this weekend and opted to rest instead of pushing it)
The honeymoon effect can only extend a team’s run so far, and Quiggle and Schermerhorn put on a convincing display in the finals, winning 21-15, 21-16.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” Quiggle said. “One for one in the finals. Just super excited to be here on the beach we practice on every single day. It feels like home here.”
“It feels really good,” Schermerhorn added. “I’m really happy to have done this with Corinne. It’s paid off.”
It is notable that they did it together. This year has not been kind to Quiggle and Schermerhorn. They’ve lost in three Challenge qualifiers in three times trying, watching as their entry points disappeared, to the point that simply getting into an event is difficult. They dropped consecutive matches in Huntington Beach and needed to qualify for the Atlanta Gold Series via a semifinal finish in last weekend’s Denver Tour Series.
Hermosa was the right result at the right time — a time when some teams would consider splitting. They remained a team through it all, and the payoff is a massive one: a win in one of beach volleyball’s most popular locations, $14,000 to split, and the intangible morale boost when it was needed most.
“It’s very much a marriage of partnership,” Schermerhorn said. “I live in Florida, my husband is in Florida, so it can be emotionally hard to be out here, but Corinne and her family have been so supportive. We’re just proud to be a part of this environment, the volleyball culture out here, and to be able to compete against some really great players.”
Like the men, a cavalcade of women are also heading the LAX, boarding flights to Portugal, including Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles, Simo and Rodriguez, Emily Stockman and Megan Kraft, Horton and Bauer, and Kraft and Muno.