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Six-Man Changed, but Champs Remain the Same

Team Magnum captures its third consecutive title in the men's open division and the Paul Martin's women team makes it back-to-back titles.

History was made and repeated itself at the 2010 Charlie Saikley 6-man Volleyball Tournament on Sunday, as Team Magnum became the only team to win three consecutive championships.

On the women's side Paul Martin's made it look easy as players defended their title from 2009. But on the men's side, Team Magnum found itself in unfamiliar territory after a tough 16-14 loss to Team Simmzy's in the quarterfinals dropped them into the loser's bracket.  

After recovering to defeat Triathlon Lab, Magnum faced Simmzy's in the loser's bracket semifinal with the winner advancing to the championship match. The second time around, Magnum didn't waste its chance for revenge as it bested Simmzy's easily 11-4 to reach the final.

Standing in the way of Magnum's quest to capture its third straight crown was the winner's bracket champion Team 12th Street.  

Men's Recap

Playing in their first final, 12th Street made good use of two well-known players—Olympic Indoor Gold Medalist Sean Rooney and 2000 Beach Volleyball Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Fonoimoana. 

Team 12th Street's undefeated run into the finals meant Magnum would have to win two games, and 12th Street would need only one to take top honors. 

In the first game of the men's final, Magnum used strong defense and potent hitting from front row players Dave McKenzie, Chris Harger and Eric Prosser to cruise to a 15-6 victory. 

Magnum matched 12th Street's star power with McKenzie and Prosser, who play on the AVP tour. Magnum's back row standout and Redondo Beach local Ryan Stuntz said that he figured the first game was over after his team jumped out to a big lead early.

"We came out loose and planned on having a great start,"  Stuntz said. ''Once we had a big lead on them I think  they kind of packed it in and decided to save their energy for the second game."

The first game may have been anticlimactic,  but the second game proved to be anything but. 

Team 12th Street jumped out to an early 10-3 lead before the momentum took a 180-degree turn. 

Behind a wicked jump serve from Stuntz, Magnum used a 7-0 run to tie the game at 10. Playing the role of co-stars in Magnum's mid-game run was Prosser and McKenzie.  

A two-man wrecking crew at the net, Prosser and McKenzie made several key blocks along with some timely kill shots to help Magnum claw its way back. For McKenzie, the 10-3 hole was a little uncomfortable, but no cause for panic.

"We have a great team and we know each other really well," he said.  "It was a little rattling to be down that much in a game only to 15, but we never lost faith in each other. We've all played together for so long that it was just a matter of getting that one big play to turn it around."    

The teams traded blows until 12th Street broke the 12-12 stalemate with a big kill down the middle by Rooney that gave his team the advantage at 13-12. 

A double block at the net by 12th Street put the team ahead to match point at 14-12. But a kill on the left by McKenzie and another blast from the right by Harger brought Magnum back from the brink again and evened the game at 14.  

The teams again took turns siding out before Harger and Prosser stuffed Rooney in the middle to put them up 15-14, at which point Stuntz dug out a kill shot from deep on the back line to set Prosser. 

Prosser used a big swing to put the ball on the sand, giving Magnum a 16-14 victory and its history-making third consecutive Six-Man championship. Stuntz believed getting his team to 14-14 was the game's final turning point.

"We fought and fought to get ourselves back to even (at 14) and because it's win by two we knew we were right there," Stuntz said. "We had the momentum and that's when everybody stepped up and took us to the finish."

Team Magnum's win on Sunday was its fourth Six-Man title and its sixth finals appearance in the last seven years. For McKenzie this title was by far the sweetest. "Best win ever!" he exclaimed after Magnum's final point put them into the tournament record books.  

Women's Recap

For the Paul Martin's Team, the plan all along was to repeat. Unlike Team Magnum, its quest to capture the championship offered few if any roadblocks. 

Playing out of the winner's bracket, Paul Martin's went into the championship match against TeamGum Tree, who it had dismantled in the semifinals 15-2. 

Paul Martin's, made up of mostly AVP pros, used solid defense, strong transitions, and timely offense in every match. A model of efficiency, no team came within five points of taking down the title-holders. 

In a rematch of its semifinal, Paul Martin's faced Team Gum Tree, who featured one of the most well-known volleyball players in the world—two-time Olympic Beach Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh. 

For Paul Martin's the game plan centered on stopping Walsh. Former AVP pro Leanne McSorley attributed the execution of their defense to be the key in shutting down the AVP star.

"We left only one blocker at the net and forced Kerri to hit it to our backline, which is the strength of our team,"Mcsorley said. "We were able to really limit her options and she played right into our hands."

Paul Martin's opened the game with a 5-0 run. Walsh ignited the Gum Tree team with two big kills and a block to bring her team back to 5-3 before Paul Martin's used another 5-0 run to blow the game wide open at 10-3.

The strong defense of back row players Whitney Pavlik and Nancy Mason allowed AVP player Diane Copenhagen and former AVP pro Carrie Dodd to swing freely from both the right and left side, with both players recording a high number of kills in the final match.

Copenhagen attributed her team's strengths in all facets of the game to be the  reason behind Paul Martin's dominating performance.

"We played excellent team defense the entire tournament," she said. "We basically had no real weaknesses. The girls in the back row were amazing and it allowed for us front row players to just come up and swing freely at the net."

Paul Martin's stretched their lead to 13-4 before Gum Tree came to life with a mini run to cut the lead in half at 13-7. Copenhagen aced a serve down the line to bring her team to match point at 14-7.

In the next transition, Dodd hit a cross-court kill to give Paul Martin's a 15-7 win and its second consecutive title. For Dodd, who has won multiple Six-Man championships but never repeated, this one was particularly rewarding. 

"People wait all year for this event, so to 2-peat is particularly special," she said.

Dodd said that she planned to savor the win today but added that Paul Martin's already has designs on a history-making third championship in a row.

"We've got a great group of girls," she said. "We play so well together, you can't help but to think about next year and the goal will be the same—win it all."

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