Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan seemed to be at a disadvantage going into the championship match of the Manhattan Beach Open on Sunday.
The Canadians were a No.11 seed coming into the iconic tournament and taking on top seeds and local favorites Alix Klineman (Manhattan Beach) and April Ross (Costa Mesa), who had won 30 consecutive matches and five consecutive AVP events coming in.
Plus, the match was played on Klineman’s home court.
But Pavan and Humana-Paredes are no strangers to high caliber beach volleyball on the international stage and demonstrated their skill and tenacity in Manhattan Beach with a 28-26, 16-21, 16-14 championship victory.
As winners of the tournament, the pair will have their names emblazoned on a plaque to be permanently displayed on Manhattan Pier’s famous Volleyball Walk of Fame.
The pair is only the second foreign team and first Canadian team to win at Manhattan Beach.
“We have been watching the AVP since we were little kids up in Canada and this is always the event we’ve dreamed to play in,” said Pavan, who finished with 17 kills, eight blocks and a .533 hitting percentage with a single hitting error.
“To get the chance to play here and win it and become immortalized on the pier means so, so much.”
The victory for Pavan and Humana-Paredes avenges their three-set loss to Klineman and Ross in the finals of the Huntington Beach Open on May 5.
However, the Canadians defeated Klineman and Ross in the finals of FIVB World Tour gold in Edmonton on July 22.
“They’re an amazing team obviously,” Humana-Paredes said. ‘We’ve battled them so many times this year and every single time, it’s a constant grind. Today, we didn’t play our best. We got it together when we needed to.
The first set was arguably the most competitive of the tournament for both teams.
The score was tied 12 times and except for an 8-5 lead by Klineman and Ross, neither team lead by more than a point.
The score was tied five times during overtime before a kill by Pavan and a hitting error by Klineman accounted for the final two points for the Canadians.
Klineman and Ross pulled away late in the second but made two critical serving errors late in the third set, enabling Pavan and Humana-Paredes to win the match.
“To know that we are a part of beach volleyball history in Canada and globally is humbling, Humana-Paredes said. “It’s so surreal.”
Klineman and Ross declined to make comments after the match.
The day started with a women’s semifinal berth on the line and No.4 Sara Hughes and Brandie Wilkerson defeating No.2 Emily Day and Betsie Flint, 21-12, 16-21, 17-15.
That put Hughes and Wilkerson in a semifinal against Klineman and Ross, who advanced to the finals with a 21-16, 19-21, 15-12 victory.
Pavan and Humana-Paredes defeated No.5 seeds Teresa Cannon and Kelly Reeves 21-16, 21-15 in the other women’s semifinal.