For the first time in this decades-long event, it was played in the rain. In its early years, matches were played in the dark with car headlights providing some light from the parking lot by the Manhattan Beach Pier, but never before has it been played on wet sand. The only water was the Pacific Ocean, not falling from the sky.
Additionally, the finals were played in the morning, also a first. Usually by that time, the fans are just emerging from the previous day’s activities in the bars of Manhattan Beach and Shellback Tavern in particular. They go to breakfast, have a couple of Bloody Marys, then go down to the beach to secure a good seat for the finals.
Tropical Storm Hilary was the reason for these historical moments and then more history was made on the soggy Sunday in mid August. Players on two teams, Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander on the men’s side and Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles on the women’s side, won Manhattan for the first time. They will now have their names added to past winners with a plaque on the pier as part of the Manhattan Beach Pier Walk of Fame.
“This is legendary,” Scoles said, who was certainly not lost on the significance of the win. “You’re not a legend unless you’re up on that pier, and we’re up there now. These fans are amazing. There’s a freaking hurricane, and they’re cheering in a packed stadium. This is our dream, and we’re living it.”
Winning the 2023 AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open was no breeze. Flint and Scoles played three matches in a span of five hours,. The duo knocked out second-seeded Corinne Quiggle/Sarah Schermerhorn 21-19, 21-13, in a 7 a.m. contenders’ bracket quarterfinals match and upended eighth-seeded Deahna Kraft/Zana Muno 21-13, 21-11, in the semifinals before capping their clean sweep in the finals.
In a rematch of Saturday’s “Crabb Boil” that sent them into the contenders’ bracket, Crabb and Sander got revenge on top-seeded Theo Brunner and Trevor Crabb. Taylor Crabb will join his older brother Trevor, who won three consecutive MBO championships in 2019, 2021, and 2022, making history as the first blood relatives with plaques on the pier.
Crabb and Sander closed out the competition strong with back-to-back straight set sweeps. In the semifinals, the duo overcame 10th-seeded Hagen Smith, son of beach volleyball legend Sinjin Smith, and Logan Webber 23-21, 21-15. With their 27-25, 21-16 men’s finals defeat over Brunner and Crabb, Taylor Crabb prevented his brother from achieving a four-peat and proved he and Sander are among the best in beach volleyball history.
The AVP Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open featured 32-team women’s and men’s fields competing in a double-elimination bracket across 10 courts from Friday through Sunday.