Originally posted on DailyNews.com by Erik Boal
HERMOSA BEACH — Jo Kremer and Julia Mannisto were the only area athletes recognized as beach volleyball All-Americans this year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
For the first half of Sunday’s championship match at the 21st AAU Junior Beach Volleyball National Championships at Hermosa Beach Pier, the recent graduates were in position to become the only local team in tournament history to win the 18-under title.
Kremer, a former Harvard-Westlake standout, and Mannisto — Westlake’s all-time kill leader — held an early seven-point advantage over the Arizona tandem of Madeline Mertz and Madalyn Roh but couldn’t sustain the momentum in a 21-19 loss.
“We lost our a focus a little and our passing wasn’t as good as it needed to be,” said Mannisto, who had eight kills in the final.
“We got tired and our verticals weren’t what they should have been and our arm swings weren’t where they should have been. We didn’t play to our potential and we gave away a couple of points and we didn’t take care of the points we needed to take care of.”
Mannisto, a South Carolina commit, and the Notre Dame-bound Kremer lost only twice in the two-day, 60-team tournament. They suffered a 15-13 pool-play setback Saturday to Mertz and Roh.
“We hurt ourselves (Saturday). We missed five serves and we hit a bunch of balls out and when it’s that close, those things make a difference,” Kremer said. “We focused a lot on our serving (Sunday) and that’s why we pretty much went right through the bracket.”
Mannisto’s kill gave her team its final advantage at 16-15 before two kills by the Tulane-bound Mertz and Kremer’s hitting error resulted in a two-point deficit.
“We’re both very competitive players, so losing close tough games like that only fuels our fire,” Mannisto said. “We gave it to them twice. We need to finish stronger next time.”
Mannisto did fight off two match points on her serve to close the deficit to 20-19, but her attempt at a serve in the deep corner landed just long to produce the final point for Mertz and the Pepperdine-bound Roh.
“It was a great serve, but it was just out,” Kremer said. “We knew they were a good team, but I think once we came out really strong we might have under-estimated them a little bit. It definitely puts it in perspective when there is 60 teams and you make it to the final, but it also hurts a little more because we’re so competitive and we know how close we were to winning.”
Kremer and Mannisto won four playoff contests, including a 21-11 victory over Valencia’s Emily Bible and Kaity Uythoven, to reach the final. They defeated Long Beach’s Nicci Hinderaker and Utah’s Samantha Thomas 21-14 in the quarterfinals and Florida’s Corinne Quiggle and San Marcos’ Anika Wilson 21-15 to advance to the final.
Mertz and Roh became the first Arizona representatives to win the 18-under title since Anna Gott and Betsi Metter in 2009 and only the third team outside California to capture the championship.
Notre Dame’s Zana Muno was the last local player to claim an AAU junior national title. Muno won the 16-under division in 2012 with Upland’s Sydney Bast.
Josie Herbst of Davenport, Iowa, and Chicago’s Brooke Burling won the girls 16-under title with a 21-19 victory over Cypress’ Joy Dennis and Haley Hallgren of Texas. Burling and Herbst defeated Westlake’s Natalie Anselmo and Utah’s Danielle Barton 21-16 in the third round.
San Clemente’s Marisa Ramsey and Mira Costa’s Presley Forbes won the girls 15-under title, with Edison’s Lindsey Sparks and Santa Margarita’s Abby van Winkle securing the girls 14-under crown.
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