2015 FIVB Smart St. Pete Grand Slam Shines

By on June 23, 2015

 

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Photo: Travis Failey

The 2015 FIVB Smart St. Pete Grand Slam came to the Spa Beach area and for the second time this year, St. Petersburg showed its beauty on an international stage. Sixty-four teams representing eighteen countries from around the globe competed for a prize purse of $800,000, and a chance to solidify their spots representing their countries in the 2016 Olympic Games.

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Joana Heydrich SUI (Photo: Travis Failey)

This is the second time that Rocket Sports and Entertainment Network has covered an AVP event, and with Saint Petersburg being selected as the starting point for the International FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, this year’s event was on a much larger scale. With sponsors like Smart Car to Paul Mitchell, Barefoot, Kingston, and DripDrop, and the fact that the men’s and women’s finals were televised on NBC, the 2015 FIVB Smart St. Pete Grand Slam tour was truly special.

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Brooke Sweat U.S.A. (Photo: Travis Failey)

Qualifying started early on Tuesday and continued throughout the week and with “feels like” temperatures often exceeding the hundred degree mark, the players had some time to adjust to the weather. We spoke with players and fans during the event and the compliments kept pouring in about the organizers and the medical team. Hydration was never an issue as there were plenty of refreshments available and safety was always their number one concern. Even though the lightning showed up to cause a couple delays, the tournament went off without a hitch.

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Casey Patterson serves in the Men’s Semi-Final (Photo: Travis Failey)

The men’s semifinal was an all United States affair that showcased two teams that would be perfect to represent the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Beach Volleyball stars Jacob Gibb and Casey Patterson battled Theo Brunner and Nick Lucena from Fort Lauderdale. Gibb and Patterson would win an ultra-competitive  three set battle (22-20, 21-19 and 16-14), with Gibb blocking Lucena for the win.

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Team U.S.A. vs Team U.S.A. (Photo: Travis Failey)

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Nick Lucena with a diving dig for a key point vs Doppler & Horst of Austria (Photo: Travis Failey)

But Saturday didn’t turn out to be all bad for Lucena and Bruner, as they beat Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria, (21-19, 21-16) in the third-place match.

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6’11 Christiaan Varenhorst serves vs Gibb & Patterson in the Gold Medal Final (Photo: Travis Failey)

The men’s final would be a match up of giants at the net with 6’7 Jacob Gibb going head to head with 6’11 Christiaan Varenhorst from the Netherlands. Varenhorst and his partner, Reinder Nummerdor, would give the Americans all they could handle. Patterson and Gibb dropped the first set 16-21, but they battled through some frustrations and won the next two sets, 23-21 and 15-13, to win the Gold. Gibb and Patterson played with an edge the whole tournament after falling in last year’s AVP final at Spa Beach and it paid off in spades, actually gold.

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Patterson serves for the win (Photo: Travis Failey)

 

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Jacob Gibb spikes home the victory for the Gold Medal for the U.S.A. (Photo: Travis Failey)

 

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(Photo: Travis Failey)

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The agony of defeat (Photo: Travis Failey)

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Casey Patterson and Fans (Photo: Travis Failey)

Gibb and Patterson are rock stars in the world of beach volleyball. Patterson is a fan favorite among the kids and never refuses to sign an autograph or pose for a picture, even when he’s with his family. If Gibb and Patterson represent the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics, they could attract a huge fan base which could take beach volleyball to another level in the States.

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(Photo: Travis Failey)

Saturday was a day for the Americans on the podium. In true Olympic fashion, there were the presentations of medals and the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. For someone who has never experienced this kind of medal ceremony, it was pretty special. The look of pride on the athletes’ faces shined as bright as the sun that scorched the sand throughout the week.

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(Photo: Travis Failey)

We almost had a repeat of Saturday in Sunday’s women’s bracket, but the country of Brazil and their amazing athletes would one-up the Americans by sweeping the podium and winning all three medals.

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Brazil’s Fernanda Alves battles Germany’s Britta Buthe at the net (Photo: Travis Failey)

In the bronze-medal match, Taiana Lima and Fernanda Alves came back to win after being down a set to Britta Buthe and Karla Borger of Germany (17-21, 21-19, 17-15). Alves won the battle at the net against Buthe, but Lima was the star. Diving and making incredible digs throughout the set, Lima played with reckless abandon and she was the shining star of the tournament.

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Brazil’s Taiana Lima (Photo: Travis Failey)

 

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Taiana Lima and Fernanda Alves celebrate their hard fought victory for bronze. (Photo: Travis Failey)

The finals would only be a two set affair but a hard fought battle commenced with Juliana Felisberta da Silva and Maria Antonelli, falling 23-21, 21-19 in the gold-medal match to Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas de Freitas. Seixas and Bednarczuk were dominant throughout the tournament as they didn’t lose a set all week.

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Brazil vs Brazil for the Gold (Photo: Travis Failey)

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Barbara with the dig (Photo: Travis Failey)

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Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas de Freitas celebrate their victory in unison (Photo: Travis Failey)

Even though only one team from Brazil could win the gold, the three teams stood as one on the podium and celebrated the sweep for their country.

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(Photo: Travis Failey)

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(Photo: Travis Failey)

There were six medal winners at The 2015 FIVB Smart St. Pete Grand Slam in St. Petersburg but the FIVB/AVP promoters and the City of Saint Petersburg were also a winning combination. With the increase in television coverage and the Olympics showcasing some of the most beautiful athletes in the world, Saint Petersburg is a perfect spot for another stop next year for the FIVB/AVP.

For more information and upcoming events:

http://avp.com/events/

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Anouk Verge-Depre SUI (Photo: Travis Failey)

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Nick Lucena serves up an ace during Team U.S.A.’s bronze medal victory (Photo: Travis Failey)

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(Photo: Travis Failey)

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(Photo: Travis Failey)

 

 

 

 

 

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