The 55th annual Manhattan Beach Open concluded on Sunday and though the top-ranked American teams in the world on both the men's and women's side prevailed, it was a very different story for the two genders last weekend.
A slow first week for the USA women's national team in the 2014 World Grand Prix put them in a must-win position in the final week of preliminary round play. They also needed some help from the other teams in the middle of the pack to qualify to move on. It did not happen.
As summer begins to turn into Fall, the NCAA women are gathering at their respective schools training camp. Pre-season matches begin at the end of the month but this week the AVCA Coaches Poll was released giving us a glimpse of the expectations for each of the different teams, sight unseen.
USC's Galen Center welcomed over 5,000 screaming and dancing fans last Saturday night when the USA men's national team took on Iran for the first of four USAV Cup matches to be held in Southern California in the month of August. Though most of the raucous crowd was screaming for the visiting team, the U.S. men managed to win in four sets, a couple of which were very tight battles. The final scores were 27-25, 25-21, 27-29, 25-17.
In the second week of the World Grand Prix, the USA women battled back into contention for the final round. After a rough first week in which they went 1-2 and scored only three points, they found more success last weekend in Brazil. The women went 2-1, losing only to No. 1 Brazil. The Brazilians are rolling through the competition in this year's Grand Prix and are the only undefeated team in the tournament with a 6-0 record and 18 points.
At the AVP's third of seven 2014 events it has been a tale of two genders as Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross continue to dominate on the women's side while the men's side is much more closely matched. Last weekend in Salt Lake City, Kerri and April steamrolled through the competition, once again not losing a single set on the way to victory while the men's side crowned it's third new title winner in as many tournaments and it's anybody's game heading into the famed Manhattan Beach Open this weekend.
The USA women's national team finished Week 1 of the 2014 World Grand Prix with a 1-2 record and just three points, which means they have quite a bit of work to do in the coming weeks to get back into the hunt for the Finals in Japan at the end of the month. The U.S. women currently sit in eighth place in the standings and since just four teams and the host country move on, they'll need to start climbing those ranks as soon as possible.
Pro Beach returns to the USA in August with four domestic tournaments on the schedule this month. The AVP will hold three of its seven total 2014 tournaments beginning with this weekend's event in Salt Lake City. The famed Manhattan Beach Open follows just one weekend later - August 14-17th. Then the AVP heads to Cincinnati at the end of the month. The AVP will have two final events in September to close 2014 - in Atlantic City and Huntington Beach.
After a week in Long Beach where the Americans dominated and the Brazilians struggled, the shoe was on the other foot just one week later in Klagenfurt. Last week, no Brazilian men made it past the quarterfinals and only one female pair made it past the Round of 16. Both No. 1 ranked American pairs were eliminated in their first playoff match and the rest of the American pairs struggled to get out of the early rounds of the playoffs. Brazil, on the other hand, won double gold and swept the medal stand on the women's side.
The U.S. women's national team sets out for the month-long World Grand Prix, similar in format and prize money to World League for the men. With lots of new faces on the squad, the women have a chance of winning the tournament and making 2014 the first time ever that they've done so in the same year that the men won World League.