SALT LAKE CITY — Clear back on Friday, before he had played the first of his five matches, Bountiful native Jake Gibb confidently predicted his team would make the finals of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Salt Lake City Open.
The 38-year-old Gibb kept his promise by making Sunday’s final and went one better by winning the title with partner Casey Patterson in a thrilling three-set victory over Ryan Doherty and Nick Lucena, 17-21, 21-17, 17-15.
“I told you we were going to make the finals,’’ Gibb said. “I didn’t know if we were going to win, but it was awesome. It’s one of my favorite wins I’ve ever had — I think I’m at about 26 in AVP tournaments and around the world — so it’s real special for me right now.’’
It was special for Gibb because he had the majority of his 10 siblings and their families on hand, along with his wife and young son. Throughout the final set, the enthusiastic crowd at Liberty Park was chanting “U-tah’’ for Gibb and Patterson, who went to BYU and had several family members on hand also.
“It’s amazing — I’ve played in stadiums where they’re chanting ‘U-S-A’ and stadiums where they’re yelling death threats,'' said Gibb "But this was more personal. It was people I know and people I love chanting it, and it meant a lot.’’
The Doherty-Lucena duo, who worked their way to the finals as the No. 4 seed, had three match points after taking a 14-11 lead in the third set. That’s when Patterson took over.
He kept his team alive with a dig and after Doherty hit a kill just long, Patterson made a another nice dig and followed it with a winner to tie the score at 14. Then he made another nice save and followed it with a kill. Finally at 16-15, Patterson put the game away with another kill.
“That was a really special moment for Casey where he absolutely took over the match,’’ Gibb said. “I was out there like a tool for him, but he literally took it over. It was real special.’’
“I was thinking it’s not over,’’ said Patterson of the comeback. “You try to slow the game down. I just dialed it in and we lucked out with a couple of good scoops and putaways.’’
Doherty and Lucena thought they’d won the match at 14-12 when the 7-foot-1 Doherty’s kill went long. They argued with the chair umpire that Gibb had touched the ball and afterward they had words with the umpire and left the court in a huff without addressing the media.
“It’s one of the things in volleyball where sometimes you get a touch and they miss the call,’’ said Gibb. “You always tell each other afterwards because everyone asks, ‘Did you touch that ball?’ And I actually didn’t touch that ball.’’’
In the women’s final earlier Sunday afternoon, Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross defeated Lauren Kendrick and Brooke Sweat in the finals, 21-16, 21-15.
Jennings, the Olympic gold medalist, had won tournaments at 119 venues around the world and has pins on a map to document the victories. Now she can add Salt Lake City to her map. Last year she and partner Whitney Pavlik finished a disappointing fifth.
“I didn’t realize I’ve never won here, but of course I haven’t,’’ Jennings said. “I’m so happy — it’s a big day for me and my family.’’
Ross won the women’s title at Salt Lake last year with partner Jen Kessy and was thrilled to win again.
“We played some really good volleyball here,’’ she said. “I love winning in Salt Lake City, it’s so fun to play. It’s awesome because the fans are so great and are into it. We want to come back and win year after year.’’
Jennings started off the first game with an ace and Ross finished off with an ace of her own as Fendrick-Sweat never led. The second game was more of the same, as Jennings-Ross sprinted to a quick 10-4 lead, watched their opponents close the gap to 15-13, then won six of the final eight points with another Ross ace finishing off the match.
In the morning semifinal matches, Ross and Jennings beat Emily Day and Summer Ross, 21-14, 21-17, while Fendrick and Sweat fended off Heather Hughes and Whitney Pavlik, 21-13, 18-21, 15-9.
In the men's semifinal matches, Gibb and Patterson fought off No. 1-seeded Tri Bourne and John Hyden, 21-19, 17-21, 15-13, while Doherty and Lucena beat Theo Brunner-Todd Rogers, 21-14, 21-14.
To get to the semis, Bruner-Rogers had to endure a marathon match with No. 3 seeds Brad Keenan-John Mayer, 43-41, 18-21, 15-12. Bourne-Hyden also had a tough Sunday morning match, defeating Billy Allen-Trevor Crabb, 21-23, 21-10, 16-14.