For the Jennings family, it's been a dream for them to sweep the oldest and one of the most famous pro beach volleyball tournaments in the world in the Association of Volleyball Professionals Manhattan Beach Open last Sunday.
There was something breathing in the air on Sunday and, especially after three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh-Jennings and her new partner, Whitney Pavlik, captured the title by sweeping Jennifer Fopma and Brooke Sweat, 22-20, 21-17.
For Kerri, Walsh's 38-year-old husband, Casey Jennings, it was a gamble in a effort to capture the 53rd Annual event as he had the 39-year-old Fuerbringer, who was Jennings' partner from 2002-09, come out of retirement. They made a few efforts that included one second place finish in 2004 when they lost to the legendary beach and indoor volleyball standout Karch Kiraly and Mike Lambert in the final and a few third place finishes.
Jennings and Fuerbringer were looking to do the best they could as they entered the classic that began last Friday as the No. 5 seed. Top seeds were Olympians Phil Dalhauser and Sean Rosenthal, who already came off winning this season's first AVP tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah a week earlier and, two weeks earlier, capturing the prestigious International FIVB Grand Slam Classic in Long Beach.
On Sunday morning with both teams unbeaten, Jennings and Fuerbringer threw Dalhauser, a two time Olympic gold medalist in Athens, Greece (2004) and Beijing, China (2008) with partner Todd Rodgers, and Rosenthal into the losers bracket with a very good split set 21-17, 18-21, 15-12 win.
Dalhauser and Rosenthal were able to get their second shot at Jennings and Fuerbringer by sweeping seventh seed Theodor Brunner and Nick Lucena, 21-13, 21-15.
Jennings and Fuerbringer, however, fought very hard. Fuerbringer had six blocks and 19 kills, while Jennings recorded 23 kills and several outstanding digs. They also used a pair of spurts that gave them sizable leads in the first and third games that made Dalhauser and Rosenthal's comeback attempts much more difficult. Using smart plays and reading their play attempts very well, Jennings and Fuerbringer completed the sweep of the two matches over Dalhauser and Rosenthal with another split set victory of 21-18, 21-23, 15-12.
"Today was one of those days," Jennings said. "It was a championship moment. Matt and I did great things together. We've played together for seven years. Matt went on to play with Lucena."
Fuerbringer retired after last season but came out of retirement to play one last tournament with his old partner, Jennings. Fuerbringer plans on not playing any more major tournaments.
Although Jennings is 38 and will be 41 at the time of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, he is seeking a spot in the Olympics as he looks for another partner. Dalhauser and Rosenthal are already aiming at the Olympics as Rosenthal seeks his first gold. He and former partner Jake Gibb, who he played with for seven years from 2005-12, finished fifth at Beijing and London.
Walsh-Jennings and Pavlik, though, have plans for their attempt to play in Rio de Janiero. Walsh-Jennings already won at Athens, Beijing and London with her ex-partner, Misty May-Treanor, who retired after last year.
Walsh-Jennings, though, had to come out of the losers bracket as they lost in the winner's bracket final to Fopma and Sweat, 21-15, 21-13.
Walsh-Jennings and Pavlik came back to down Lauren Fredrick and Brittany Hochever, 21-15, 21-18.
In two very good battles, Walsh-Jennings and Pavlik were able to pull through to avenge their earlier defeat.
For Pavlik, it was her third consecutive Manhattan Open win. It was Walsh-Jennings' fourth victory in this event.
"It's amazing to be up there with Kerri with our names on the pier," Pavlik said. "Every match gets better. "We did everythig to win."
For the Jennings, it is a big family celebration as they celebrate with their children, parents and all of their relatives on the husband-wife sweep.
All four will get their plaques put on to Manhattan Beach Pier with their titles. For Jennings and Fuerbringer, they will finally get their names on the pier after several other efforts. Rosenthal won the tournament with Gibb in 2009 and with his ex-Redondo High friend, Aaron Wacthfogel, a year later shortly after the AVP temporarily folded due to numerous financial difficulties. The 2010 (50th annual) classic ended up sponsored by the California Beach Volleyball Association along with a few other businesses and corporations that pitched in prize money for it. The Manhattan Opens of 2011 and 2012 were under Cuervo, which dropped all of its tournaments after last season. The AVP officials are pleased to get the prestigious classic back.
Except for Fuerbringer, the other top players and most other teams will compete in Cincinnati over the Labor Day Weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 2) before a large $100,000 tournament in Atlantic City, New Jersey from Sept. 6-8.