Gibb, Crabb win AVP Austin

Jake Gibb, Taylor Crabb Win Third Straight AVP the Hard Way

Jake Gibb-Taylor Crabb

Jake Gibb has been around this game for quite a bit. He’s been playing AVPs for longer than some recent qualifiers have been alive. He’s played through four different presidents and competed in three Olympic Games.

Sometimes, when you’ve been around the game for that long, “I like to test my conditioning,” he said on Monday morning. “Anything over 40, you really gotta test yourself to see if you’re good.”

He was joking, of course. His and Taylor Crabb’s road to their third straight AVP title, in Austin last weekend, was the longest possible. On Friday morning, as the one seed, they fell to Paul Lotman and Gabe Ospina, a team that came out of the qualifier the day before. That meant, instead of the traditional four matches to get to the final of the 16-team draw, it took six. In Austin heat and humidity. Against a list of teams one wouldn’t really want to see with only one loss left to send them to Jinjiang, China, early, for a four-star FIVB.

“It was brutal, man,” Gibb said. “That thing took its toll.”

It is not difficult to see why. Four of Gibb’s and Crabb’s seven matches went to three sets, and four lasted more than an hour. Two of those matches came against all-time greats in Sean Rosenthal and Ricardo Santos – “I’m never comfortable playing Rosie and Ricardo,” Gibb said – and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.

He knew, too, as soon as they lost to Ospina and Lotman, what it meant: For the second consecutive tournament, they’d be on Dalhausser’s and Lucena’s side of the bracket. In Huntington Beach, after dropping to Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, Gibb and Crabb met Dalhausser and Lucena in the quarterfinals, winning an epic match in three.

In Austin, they saw them on Sunday morning, winning, of course, in the full three sets.

“Once we lost I was like ‘Gosh darnit we put ourselves right into their bracket,’” Gibb said. And about that loss: It looks worse than it actually is. People seem to forget how loaded qualifiers can be. At this point two years ago, Rafu Rodriguez had failed to qualify, as had Chaim Schalk, Reid Priddy, Piotr Marciniak and a host of others who are now regular main draw, AVP champions, currently in the Olympic hunt or all of the above.

“You’re playing against, first of all, great players. Everybody who is out there are ballers,” Gibb said. “Like, for example, Paul Lotman, the guy’s an Olympian, stud athlete. I’ve never seen him play. So I have no idea – not one tendency. I don’t know if he’s wrist away. I don’t know if he’s cross body. I don’t know anything about him, but they’ve probably seen us play a lot. So there’s a distinct advantage there and sometimes it takes a game to figure it out. Sometimes that first round is just tough.”

So no, it wasn’t that Gibb and Crabb were sleepwalking through their first match. And anyway, they were up at the freeze, 20-18, in the second set, until Lotman ripped off a few aces. Sometimes Olympians just play well. First round or in the finals, where Gibb and Crabb saw another Olympian in Schalk, who hadn’t lost a set with Jeremy Casebeer the entire weekend.

All things considered, then, if it was a test Gibb was looking for – he wasn’t – that’s exactly what he got. In every round he played, he met either an Olympian or someone who has made at least an AVP semifinal in the last two seasons.

“Three in a row. That’s crazy, yeah,” Gibb said of him and Crabb winning Chicago of 2018 and the first two events of the 2019 season. “Super stoked.”