Beach volleyball partnerships can often seem like business deals, a way for each party to benefit from the other. Friendship is not always an outcome — but it was for Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal.
"We go out together, we golf together," Gibb said. "We spend our time outside the volleyball arena together and it becomes somewhat of a marriage. I see the kid more than I see my wife sometimes."
As in any relationship, the two are having some problems. They will try to work those issues out in a familiar location beginning Saturday at the AVP Long Beach Open.
There have been two tournaments at Long Beach since Gibb, 34, and Rosenthal, 30, got together in 2006. In 2007, Gibb and Rosenthal finished second. In 2008, they won the title.
"Jake and I have done really well in Long Beach, so I'd like to continue that," Rosenthal said.
The tournament could help wipe away the pair's disappointment from last weekend's result at the Hermosa Beach Open. After losing early to eventual finalists John Mayer and Matt Prosser on Saturday, Gibb and Rosenthal lost once more in the contender's bracket and failed to make it through to Sunday. The fourth-seeded team finished ninth.
"Any time you take a tough loss you feel a vengeance to come out and prove you're still a top dog," Gibb said.
While they have had good results this season, including a second-place finish at Santa Barbara and fifth-place finishes at Prague, Czech Republic, and at Gstaad, Switzerland, on the World Tour, something has been off for Gibb and Rosenthal.
The duo won at Manhattan Beach and had three second-place and three third-place finishes on the 2009 AVP tour. Their best season was 2008, when they won three AVP titles and one international tournament, and represented the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics. But they haven't seen such consistent top finishes in 2010.
"We haven't been playing as well as we have been in the past years," Rosenthal said. "We're just fighting through. But there's always next weekend."
Gibb blames mechanics and says he needs to side-out better. Rosenthal pointed to a number of reasons, including a demanding back-and-forth schedule of domestic and foreign competition, and the continued improvement of other teams. Whatever the source, Gibb said the two can work it out through communication.
"We just try and talk more on the court when we're struggling and just to figure it out," he said. "We both have strong volleyball knowledge. We can usually figure stuff out, we just have to talk through it."
Rosenthal's fan club, Rosie's Raiders, tries to assist as well. Rosenthal, who grew up in Redondo Beach and is a favorite in Southern California, said the Raiders should be out in large numbers at Long Beach.
"They shout hints," Gibb said. "I don't know how helpful they are, but they always scream hard. We have a lot of loyal fans that all want to help and we appreciate their help."
After Hermosa Beach, the two heard comments suggesting their partnership was no longer working and that the business deal should come to an end. Both agreed the idea was ridiculous.
"Jake and I aren't going anywhere," Rosenthal said. "We're good friends on and off the court and we're going to work this thing out and figure it out together."