Sean Scott, celebrating a block in a tournament earlier this summer, said… (Harry How / Getty Images )
The thick screen of clouds created an obvious deterrent on the final day of the Hermosa Beach Open. Or maybe the sparse crowd could have been blamed on the third Sunday of the NFL season.
Then the sun came out and beach volleyball fans seemingly followed it to the Hermosa Beach Pier to see Casey Jennings and Pedro Salgado beat Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal, 21-18, 21-17, to win the third and final event of the Jose Cuervo series.
Jennings hadn't done much on the beach this season other than a fifth-place finish in a tournament in the Netherlands. But this was a solid comeback for the 36-year-old, who was emotional and effusive in his praise for his wife, beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh, as he addressed the crowd.
It was a perfect finish for the people at USA Volleyball, who presided over this tournament, along with branding and marketing giant IMG. But will there be more of these moments for beach volleyball in the U.S. next year?
Three domestic tours tried to fill the chasm created by last year's abrupt dissolution of the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals. The consensus this weekend: the Cuervo series, the National Volleyball League and the Corona Light Wide Open tour can't all exist peacefully.
There will be about eight months to figure it out, but players predict less fragmentation. Three tours seem like a lot to them.
"I think it's going to be tough," said Sean Scott, one of the top U.S. players. "I don't know if the marketplace can" support it.
Notably absent from almost every domestic tournament were the Big Four: Olympic gold medalists Misty May, Walsh, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.
On one hand, they are forced to play on the international tour to qualify for the Olympics. But there are weekends when they are in the U.S. and can play in a domestic tournament … if they want.
"We need things to be stable and ready from the ground up," said Walsh, who played in only one U.S. tournament this season. "Ideally people can combine forces. We want an elite tour and we want to showcase our sport.
"I don't think having two or three tours, dividing all the wonderful things people contribute to our sport, I don't think that serves the sport very well. I think we need to consolidate but do it in a really smart way. Start small and grow and shoot for the moon."
IMG has a relatively long history of sponsoring beach volleyball events and might again be a financial backbone. There are talks of increasing the IMG-backed Cuervo series to six tournaments next year.
"Our plan is to expand," IMG senior vice president James Leitz said. "We were hoping to finish strong in Hermosa Beach and build on that success and momentum to continue to gain the confidence of the players, continue to electrify the industry a little bit."
Time will tell. The sand will wait to see what happens.
April Ross and Jen Kessy defeated Whitney Pavlik and Jenny Kropp, 21-12, 21-16, to win the Hermosa women's championship.