Laguna Beach Open

Laguna Open Adding a Four-man Final on Sunday

Laguna Open

Chase Frishman thought he wasn’t being much help when he said that, as a kid raised in Victoria Beach, a lovely little town just south of Laguna’s main beach, he wasn’t a regular attendee of the Laguna Open.

“I know what your vision is here, my friend,” he said. “‘I was watching Stoklos play when I was in my jammies!’ But that isn’t the case because I grew up in our little Victoria community. Old school. I was in that community and I wasn’t really out to see the marquee matchups at the Open. I wasn’t connected to that.”

This is not lost on Kirk Morgan. The director of the Laguna Open since 2012, Morgan knows that the south Orange County communities are tight-knit, not often venturing out because, frankly, there isn’t much need to. There’s Victoria, Emerald Bay, Three Arch Bay and Main Beach, where the Open has been hosted for the past 65 years, making it the longest running open tournament in beach volleyball. People like their beaches the way they like their beaches.

Which is why Morgan added a bit of a wrinkle to the festivities of this year’s Open. If everyone is so proud of their beach and respective community, why not put it to the test?

And so it is that, on Sunday this year, before the two-man finals of the Laguna Open, there will be a four-man final to decide which south Orange County community has bragging rights for the next year: Victoria vs. Emerald Bay vs. Three Arch Bay vs. Main Beach, with the finalists decided by a round robin format prior to Sunday’s finals.

“That’s one thing I’m really excited about this year,” he said, and this comes among a number of predictably exciting things about the Laguna Open. The entry list, which is not yet fully finalized – when it does, we will have a more detailed preview – is replete with champions and household names in the sport. Sean Rosenthal, for instance, will be back, bringing another phenomenal blocker out of pseudo-retirement in Mark Williams.

So yes, Morgan has plenty of reasons to be excited, though his enthusiasm about the four-man was notable. The irony of it all is that the idea began with Frishman, the same guy who thought he was being no help at all, in the wake of one of Frishman’s most disappointing tournaments in his burgeoning career.

On June 2, 2016, Frishman and Mike Brunsting were in Seattle for the third stop of the AVP season. The tournament before, in Huntington Beach, they had made their first main draw as a team and nearly upset Ty Tramblie and Brad Keenan once in.

And then they lost in the first round of the Seattle qualifier, in a brutal draw of Kevin McColloch and Rafu Rodriguez.

It was, in retrospect, a serendipitous loss. It gave them time to fly home, play in Laguna. And here’s the thing about those raised in Victoria Beach: They’re proud of their own. The 2016 Laguna Open became essentially a home tournament for Frishman and Brunsting, who, with the backing of a magnificently rowdy and well-lubricated crowd, would go on to win the whole thing.

“After seeing Chase Frishman’s crew the year he and Mike Brunsting won — it wasn’t a bunch of tourists watching a bunch of guys they didn’t know,” Morgan said. “It was people taking ownership of a team.”

Taking ownership of their beach community.

Now everyone in Emerald Bay, Three Arch Bay, Victoria and Main have their own crack at taking ownership of their beach.

“After winning I kind of felt a little bit of pressure,” Frishman said. “There’s a lot of people that are on your side but now this year I’m looking at it as ‘This is fun. Let’s do this together.’”