After being postponed a day by a torrential rainstorm that flooded parts of Kenner on Thursday, the organizers of the AVP New Orleans Open beach volleyball tournament had to make some repairs and some adjustments.
So did the players.
Instead of playing 16 matches on Friday with the goal of reaching Sunday’s finals, some rested. Some toured the French Quarter. Some admitted to eating not-so-healthy meals. Then they crammed all that action that was supposed to be played on Friday into Saturday.
Thanks to a team of workers from the City of Kenner who toiled all day Friday making the site safe and playable, a total of 24 matches were played on a gorgeous day at the Kenner Lakefront. And there is more to come in the tour’s first trip to the New Orleans area since 1999.
Play will resume Sunday at 8 a.m. with two women’s contenders bracket matches, the winners of which will advance to a pair of 10 a.m. semifinals against teams that advanced from the winner’s bracket. That includes No. 1 seeds April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings, who breezed through three matches throughout the day on Saturday. It also includes the No. 10 seeded team of Geena Urango and Angela Bensend, the former outside hitter for the LSU indoor volleyball team, now in her third year on the AVP circuit.
Men’s play will begin at 7:30 with a men’s contender bracket match. Two more will be played at 9 a.m. Those will determine the semifinals to be played at 11 a.m. The field includes the No. 2 seed team of Phil Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic Gold medalist, and Sean Rosenthal, a two-time Olympian. No. 1 seeds Jake Gibb, also a two-time Olympian, and Casey Patterson breezed through their first two matches, but were pushed to three in their third by No. 12 seeds Brian and Tim Bomgren. Gibb and Patterson eventually took a 17-21, 21-14, 15-9 win.
The women’s final will be played at noon with the men’s final to begin at approximately 1 p.m. General admission is free and VIP tickets are available at www.AVP.com and on site at the tournament.
Jennings and Ross had little trouble advancing through their bracket, defeating the No. 16 seed 21-7, 21-9; then the No. 9 seed 21-11, 21-10; then the No. 4 seed 21-11, 21-10.
“It’s always really exciting to play AVP here with all the fans watching,” Ross said. “Being the first event of the year, I think we’re just really happy to be here. We’ve got a lot of fire, so we came out swinging today and it worked for us. (Friday) was good for us. You know, we work so hard and train so much that I think the extra day off was good for us. Thank the rain for that.”
With an unexpected day off on her son’s birthday, Jennings was able to put together a little celebration.
“We went to the aquarium, went to the butterfly museum, it was just so cool,” she said.
Bensend said she and and her family toured the French Quarter — but only her parents ate the beignets.
“It’s great to be back at home, to be in Louisiana,” Bensend said. “And my partner and I did a great job of staying in control and controlling our side of the court and not letting the other side gain control. We just had a lot of fun and we’re super excited for (today).”
There were moments on Friday, however, when the AVP folks thought they had a catastrophe on their hands. The area got about four inches of rain in a span of about two hours on Thursday, turning the site into more of a pond than a beach. The sand courts were so soaked they were deemed unsafe for the players. Tour organizers were left with lots of water that had to be squeegeed and trenched away, and lots of mud.
“I want to credit the City of Kenner and Mayor (Mike) Yenni,” AVP Tour Managing Partner Donald Sun said. “They had their whole force come out and work with us to make sure that this event happened. It was really a collective effort, everyone shoveling. This whole thing was under water.”