The sun was beating down on Sunday, and the crowd was roaring as the announcer yelled that it was championship point. As soon as the block by Lauren Fendrick fell to the sand, she went over to her partner, April Ross, and they hugged.
This was near the end of a hot weekend at the AVP New York City Open. Ross and Fendrick came out on top on the women’s side, and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb won the men’s side. But for both of those two teams, it was a long road.
Because of the 91° heat, the last rounds of the tournament were brutal, but there was still a fantastic atmosphere, thanks in part to announcer Mark Schuerman. Fans were very involved in the match, but there never seemed to be a clear crowd favorite.
The second-seeded team of Ross and Fendrick and the fifth-seeded team of Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat both made it through the first three rounds and into the semis without losing a set.
Sweat and Summer Ross won in straight sets again, 26–24, 21–15, over Kim DiCello and Emily Stockman.
Fendrick and April Ross got very unlucky. Since the top-seeded team of Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar lost earlier than expected, they went to the contender’s bracket and made their way through. So it was the No. 1 seeds against the No. 2 seeds in the semifinals. Day and Hochevar won the first set 21–18. But then Fendrick and April Ross started firing and won the second 21–15 and a tight third 15–13.
The only issue was that in the middle of the match, Ross dislocated her toe, which nearly made her team forfeit the final. But Fendrick said she wasn’t surprised that her teammate pushed through the pain and played very well. She referenced other times when Ross was sick or hurt and still managed to win.
But it really affected the championship match against Sweat and Summer Ross. Fendrick did much more than she usually did, and they also switched sides of the court.
In the first set, Fendrick and April Ross started off slow, and it was unclear if Ross could finish the match. Then they made a huge comeback, even saving set point on their way to a 24–22 first-set victory.
In the second set, the 5’8” Sweat was struggling against the power of her former Olympic partner, Fendrick. Once April Ross got into the match, and let her adrenaline get the best of her toe, she and Fendrick were unstoppable. Summer Ross and Sweat stuck around, but April Ross and Fendrick proved too good, winning the second set 21–15.
Their first title in their second tournament as a team meant even more to them because they overcame adversity. Said Fendrick, “It feels good to know that we have that level, to really be able to step up if needed.” Ross said she thought her being vocal during the match helped Fendrick know that she was okay, which helped push them through.
In the first men’s semifinal, one of the shorter players on tour, 6’0” Taylor Crabb, and two-time cancer survivor Jake Gibb (the No. 2 seeds), advanced to the final with a 21–19, 21–16 semifinal win.
On the other side of the bracket, we could've had a Taylor Crabb–Trevor Crabb final, but Billy Allen and Stafford Slick prevented Trevor Crabb and Sean Rosenthal from a second-set comeback and advanced to Slick’s first career final with a 21–19, 21–15 win.
Slick has finished third in the AVP five times, but this was his first final in just his fourth AVP event with Allen. (Once during a match Slick got hit in the eye and had to go into emergency surgery. Now during matches, he wears protective goggles.)
For the final, which produced many long, impressive points, Jake (Spiker) Gibb and Taylor Crabb got ahead by winning most of the long points to take the first set, 21–16.
In the second set, Allen and Slick got ahead, but after losing two set points, they ended up going down 21–16, 25–23, handing Taylor Crabb his first AVP title. When Gibb was asked about his partner’s nerves trying to get his first ever win, he said, “I don’t know. I think he was the one who had to help me keep my emotions in check.”
Photographs by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire (2)