Family, fans support competitors at Manhattan Beach Open – Orange County Register

The serves, volleys, spikes and dives into the coarse Manhattan Beach sand is underway.

The three-day AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open, which first took place in 1960, began on Friday, Aug. 18, with larges crowds converging at multiple courts across the city’s coastline.

The day before four of the top beach volleyball players in the country were immortalized for their championship run in last year’s Manhattan Beach Open. And now, dozens of competitors, including past champions, are on a quest to have their names immortalized on the Manhattan Beach Pier’s Walk of Fame next year — and to share $300,000 in purse prize.

The finals are set for Sunday.

While players were battling on the sand Friday, beach volleyball players were cheering on their favorite stars in what has become known as the “granddaddy” of beach volleyball tournaments.

Association of Volleyball Professionals, meanwhile, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with tournaments across the country, including next at the Chicago Open from Sept. 1 to 3

Fred Lefevre, a former Hermosa Beach resident, drove up from San Diego to catch the AVP this weekend. The first AVP he attended was in Manhattan Beach in 2005.

He noted a particular interest in the talented crop of young women’s players.

“The players are coming in better and better,” Lefevre said, “coming right out of college and taking on the champions.”

Brian Kern, a Redondo Beach resident, is also impressed with the young talent after attending AVP events for more than 20 years.

Kern’s favorite day, though, is not actually the tournament proper — but Thursday’s Open Qualifier.

“That’s usually the most fun day because from anywhere anybody can try to get in,” Kern said. “People from all over the world come and just try to get to the the main dance and it’s one of the best days of the whole tournament.”

Redondo Beach’s Peter King said he’s been playing beach volleyball since he was 12 years old. He’s been coming to the Manhattan Beach AVP for about 20 years.

“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” King said. “The players are getting younger and the money is getting bigger.”

Diane Yoshida, from San Diego, has been playing volleyball for 30 years and has been following the AVP since the 1990s. She said she has developed friendships with some of the players, like Jeff Samuels and Paul Lachmann, and attends the MB Open every year.

“I follow them and support them,” Yoshida said of the players.

It’s not only fans that are rooting on the players, though.

Rebecca Vaught was in Manhattan Beach to root for her son, Ben Vaught, a Newport Beach native who made his AVP debut in 2017.

“It’s very stressful,” she said about watching her son compete on Friday.

Bowen Ierna, from Florida, is a volleyball coach and father of player Ryan Ierna, who failed to make it out of the qualifying round on Thursday with partner Thomas Hurst.

But the elder Ierna said he was impressed with his first trip to Manhattan Beach.

“There’s a fantastic level of volleyball,” Ierna said. “I’ve been to some of the other AVP events around the country and this by far is the best one.”

While Sara Hughes, Kelley Kolinske, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb earned their plaques on the Manhattan Beach Pier on Thursday for winning last year’s tournament, eight men’s and women’s teams advanced in Thursday’s Open Qualifier to be part of the proper team women’s and men’s field.

The men’s and women’s bracket consists of 32 teams, of which 16 teams each automatically entered based on the AVP ranking points, along with eight wild card teams and eight teams who earned entry through Thursday’s qualifiers, according to an AVP press release.

General admission for the Manhattan Beach Open is free. Premium seating tickets are also available for purchase.

All matches on Stadium Court will stream live on ESPN+, and all matches played on Courts 1 and 2 will be available on the Bally Live app. Live coverage of the championship matches is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20, on ESPN2, according to an AVP press release.

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