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MANHATTAN BEACH VOLLEYBALL

John Hyden, Sean Scott prove a winning combination

The duo has defeated Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers twice to win AVP tournaments since teaming up this season.

July 17, 2009|Bill Brink

Youthful ambition left John Hyden and Sean Scott without partners, so the 36-year-old veterans banded together.

Turns out, experience has its benefits: Since teaming up, they have won two Assn. of Volleyball Professionals tournaments this season, in Atlanta and Ocean City, Md., and are the top-seeded team at the Manhattan Beach Open this weekend.

Hyden's former partner, Brad Keenan, 27, and Scott's ex-partner, Nick Lucena, 29, joined forces to make a run at international competition and prepare for the 2012 Olympics.

But the older guys have proved they're not washed up. In both their tournament championships they defeated 2008 Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.

"Against that team you've got to play almost perfect to beat them every time," Scott said.

Dalhausser, Scott said, presents an especially formidable challenge. At 6 feet 9 he towers above the net and can change any shot sent his way.

How to defend him?

"Don't serve him," Scott and Hyden said simultaneously.

Hyden and Scott's quest for three consecutive tournament titles ended when Ty Loomis and Casey Patterson beat them in the championship at the Coney Island (N.Y.) tour stop on July 5.

"They played exceptionally well, and we didn't play our best," Hyden said.

Hyden and Scott have impressive credentials. Hyden was a four-time team most valuable player at San Diego State and is a former member of the U.S. National indoor team. He was an outside hitter on the 1996 and 2000 Olympic teams and was voted the team most valuable player in 1996.

Scott, who grew up in Hawaii and played for the University of Hawaii, was the AVP Rookie of the Year in 1999. When he and Rogers were partners, they barely missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympics.

Scott has finished second in the last two Manhattan Beach Opens -- both times to Dalhausser and Rogers, who have won the last three.

Dalhausser and Rogers are seeded second this weekend as they seek to become the first team since 1985 to win four straight Manhattan Beach titles. But Hyden and Scott said they ignore seedings and instead focus on their game plan.

"Speaking from the experience of being a No. 2 seed many times and never faring well, every game something can happen," Hyden said. "Every game's going to be different. We just need to play our game and we will be fine."

Thirty-two teams played their way into the event during Thursday's qualifying round, 16 each on the men's and women's side.

San Diegans Natalie Hagglund and Summer Ross, who are 17 and 16 respectively, became the youngest team to qualify for an Assn. of Volleyball Professionals main draw. They now face No. 1-seeded Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs.

Play starts today at 8 a.m. on the south side of the Manhattan Beach pier.

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william.brink@latimes.com

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