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FIVB world champions Humana-Paredes & Pavan prevail on American sand

Jumping for Joy after winning Sunday on American sand in southern California is Melissa Humana-Paredes (left) as Canadian partner Sarah Pavan waits to hug her championship partner.
Manhattan Beach, Calif., USA, August 18, 2019 - In a rivalry that has become as intriguing as the race for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan and April Ross and Alix Klineman continued to build the hype.

In another enthralling chapter on Sunday, reigning FIVB World Champions Pavan and Humana-Paredes had just enough to outlast Ross and Klineman in the championship match of the legendary AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open, 2-1 (28-26, 16-21, 16-14), a struggle between the world powers that lasted 1 hour, 18 minutes.

It was the first victory on the AVP tour for the Canadians and they earned their plaques on the historic Manhattan Beach Pier, where all champions of a tournament that began in 1960 years ago are enshrined.

“It means a lot to create history and be immortalized on the pier,” Humana-Paredes said. “One of the things you hope as an athlete is to leave a legacy behind and I think we’re doing that.”

It’s been a summer of love for the Canadians, who captured the world title in Hamburg in July with a finals victory over Ross and Klineman. They also won on their home sand in Edmonton. They returned to Europe and captured the Vienna Major 5-star two weeks ago.

The teams entered the week with Ross and Klineman, the defending Manhattan Open champions, ranked No. 1 in the world with Pavan and Humana-Paredes ranked No. 2.

“Melissa and I grew up watching this event on TV in Canada and it was always our dream to play here,” said Pavan, who lives virtually right next door in Hermosa Beach. “We’ve had a lot of battles with April and Alix so we knew it would be really tough but to be able to play on this environment and to get our name on the pier at a place where we now call home is unbelievable.

“This is an iconic event and some of the greats in beach volleyball history have won this. To be able to join them with our name on the pier is incredibly humbling and it keeps us really hungry for more and looking to next summer.”

This was the fifth meeting between the teams in 2019. Klineman and Ross have scored victories in the AVP Huntington Beach final, the FIVB Itapema Open (Brazil) final and the FIVB Tokyo Open quarterfinals.

“This summer’s been wild,” Pavan said. “So many firsts, so many dreams coming true, making history for our country and just for volleyball, for our careers and this is icing on the cake. When we found out we had the opportunity to play here, we were so excited.”

The series between the teams is now tied at 4-4. It was the first defeat on the AVP tour for Ross and Klineman, who were seeking their sixth consecutive title on the American domestic tour and had a 30-match win streak during that run ended.

Ross and Klineman declined to comment to the media after the match.

“They’ve had a great run. They are, in my opinion, the best American team, I don’t think anybody can argue that,” Pavan said. “They’ve gotten better year after year that they’ve been together and they are solidifying their legacy on the AVP and if there can be a little rivalry developing, that makes it fun for everybody.”

In the men’s final, Trevor Crabb and Reid Priddy made their own history. Playing together for the first time, each won their first AVP event and cemented a legacy of their own.

Reid Priddy (pictured) wins on the American domestic tour Sunday with new partner Trevor Crabb

Two weeks ago, Crabb was playing with Tri Bourne in Vienna, but Bourne broke a bone in his hand on the final play of an elimination victory. Priddy had been playing with veteran Theo Brunner, but the players parted after disappointing results.

After only three practices together, the duo went 7-1 in the three-day, double-elimination tournament and defeated Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger, 2-0 (21-15, 21-19). Patterson and Budinger were coming off a victory in the previous AVP event in Hermosa Beach.

“Couldn’t ask for anything better for No. 1,” Crabb said. “This is the tournament everyone wants to win, I think it’s the greatest beach volleyball event ever, so prestigious, and to have our names on the pier forever, there’s nothing like it.”

Priddy, who has built his own legacy with the United States indoor team (Gold in Beijing 2008 and bronze in Rio de Janeiro 2016) before switching full-time to the beach, was playing in his 46th AVP event but had never finished higher than third.

Before they became teammates, Crabb, 29, and Priddy, 41, were more known for their semi-feud when they took the court against one another.

“It’s so perfect, it’s just great,” Priddy said. “We buried the hatchet a long time ago. I didn’t fully understand where he was coming from and once I saw him . . . one thing I noticed is one guy stands out above everybody.

“I’ve never seen him mail a point in. He never mails it in. If he’s down by six, I’ve never seen him give up. I went up to him a year ago and said ‘Hey, I have respect for you. I don’t like how you act sometimes across the net but you play harder than anybody out here.’ And I value that more than anything.”

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