Ed Ratledge realized his dream Sunday as he and Roberto “Rafu” Rodriguez won AVP San Francisco.
Ratledge, 41, won an AVP title on his 140th try over a span of 18 years when he and Rodriguez defeated Chase Budinger and Sean Rosenthal 21-15, 21-18.
“It’s a cliché, but it feels like a dream,” Ed Ratledge said. “It really does feel like a dream, this entire day has felt like a dream. Playing with him feels like a dream.”
Betsi Flint and Emily Day won the women’s title, going back-to-back after winning AVP Seattle. The swirling stadium winds made things a bit dicey at times as the pair defeated Caitlin Ledoux and Geena Urango 21-17, 16-21, 15-7.
Ratledge’s previous career bests were fifth-place finishes (2004 Tempe with Chad Mowrey, 2006 Tempe with Ty Loomis, 2007 Dallas with Albert Hannemann, 2008 San Diego with Ryan Mariano, 2009 Panama City with Ryan Mariano, and 2010 Fort Lauderdale with Ryan Mariano).
Rodriguez, who has competed on the tour since 2009, had a previous best of third last year at AVP Hermosa Beach 2017 with Piotr Marciniak.
Both Ratledge and Rodriguez are actively involved in coaching volleyball, Ratledge for VolleyOC in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Rodriguez for Viper Volleyball in Temecula, Calif.
They played nearly error-free ball in the finals and both hit for an identical .500 percentage. The 6-foot-8 Ratledge had three blocks, while Rodriguez had four aces. The match ended on a doubled set by Budinger following a tough Rodriguez serve down the middle.
“We just want to stay in the moment,” Ratledge said on the Amazon Prime post-match interview. “When you’re in the moment, a lot of good things happen.
“The semis helped get those nerves out, I didn’t feel nearly as nervous this time around. It was like, ‘OK, I’ve been here before, the stadium court is packed, we’re doing the things that we do.’
“I had another partner for seven years, Ryan Mariano. I love you and I had to do all the things I had to do with him, the same exact skill set, and now I can do them well enough to do this. I wish I could have done them when I was with him, because he’s a really special person to me.”
Ratledge had fun with being in the final, playing to the crowd, inciting the “monster block” cheer.
“Having a crowd that’s on your side, I think Gladiator, the movie, talked about it, ‘Win the crowd,’ and from the bottom up. It changes everything about how you feel.”
Rodriguez, who is from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, acknowledged that his fans were excited to see him get the win.
“All our kids are watching back in Temecula, and of course my family is supporting us, my wife and newborn baby, we’re very proud and excited,’ Rodriguez said.
And he enjoyed playing with Ratledge.
“He makes it easy for me, Rodriguez said. “This big guy covers most of the court, so I only have a little space to cover. I just go with the flow, and like Ed says, ‘Be in the moment, enjoy it,’ and it all worked out.”
Ratledge and Rodriguez reached the final with a 21-12, 21-17 defeat of top-seeded Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty. Ratledge and Rodriguez kept Allen and Doherty off balance throughout with team defense. Ratledge tallied five blocks, and kept Allen to a .118 hitting percentage.
Flint and Day had a very competitive match with Ledoux and Urango. There wasn’t much between the two teams, as both Day and Ledoux had five blocks, and Flint and Urango each had eight digs. In the end, Flint and Day’s teamwork was crisper in transition, allowing them to convert more of their opportunities.
The victory is Day’s eighth and Flint’s fourth. It gives the new team for 2018 two wins in their three domestic tournaments together. Day only had a few hours to celebrate as she prepared to jump on a plane to the five-star FIVB event in Gstaad to play with Lauren Fendrick.
The brisk winds threatened to take Flint and Day out of their rhythm.
“It came back to our passing and siding out,” Flint said. “We played in a lot of three-set matches this weekend, so we were really prepared for this.”
Day said she had to relax and let her training take over.
“I just had to react to what’s happening. That’s what I like to tell myself so I don’t think too much. It was letting my body do the work and not my mind,” Day said.
Flint won AVP San Francisco with Kelley Larsen in 2017.
“I love it, it’s an awesome city, great crowd, and we have the entourage here cheering for us, so I love it,” Flint said.
Flint and Day avenged an earlier loss to Brittany Howard and Kelly Reeves with a dominating 21-14, 21-13 semifinal win. Flint and Day kept the serving pressure on Howard, who hit .242 to .333 for Flint and .458 for Day. Day had three blocks, including the match-winner.
Steady serving pressure in breezy conditions kept April Ross and Alix Klineman off balance as Ledoux and Urango earned a 21-19, 21-15 semifinal victory. Klineman committed seven hitting errors, Ross six. Fittingly, a Ledoux ace ended the freeze, sending the new team to their first final together.
The finals will be shown on NBC Sports at 6 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday. The next AVP event is July 26-29 in Hermosa Beach.
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