AVP veteran Stein Metzger saw the landscape changing in professional beach volleyball and decided he needed a bigger teammate.
Through two weeks of the 2005 AVP Nissan Series, his decision looks like a stroke of genius.
In a season full of new teams and new players that have brought more parity, Metzger and teammate Jake Gibb captured their second tour victory in as many events with a 21-19, 21-16 win over Dax Holdren and Jeff Nygaard in the men’s final of the Tempe Open on Sunday at Tempe Beach Park.
The women’s side doesn’t boast quite the parity as the men because of the dominance of U.S. Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May.
And to nobody’s surprise, the sport’s top duo also captured their second tour title this season, coming from a game down to defeat Elaine Youngs and Rachel Wacholder, 20-22, 21-18, 15-13 in their final.
Gibb, 29, who never touched a volleyball until he was 21, wrestled with Metzger shortly after the title-game victory, yelling, "Way to get dirty for me, partner."
But it was Metzger, an Olympian, who couldn’t say enough about his new teammate.
"Jake is like the real estate market — it keeps going up," said Metzger, who replaced the 6-foot-3 Holdren with the 6-7 Gibb following a fifth-place finish in the Olympics a year ago. "In this game, it takes a while to get good. You don’t just do it overnight, so what Jake’s done is actually quite special."
Metzger decided to go for added size after noticing the sport had turned more to power from finesse since recent rule changes shrunk the size of the playing area.
Metzger-Gibb also defeated Holdren-Nygaard in the Fort Lauderdale Open championship three weeks ago. Walsh-May did the same to Youngs-Wacholder in the season opener as well.
And Walsh and May did it by picking up the intensity after falling a game down.
"We started playing our game, got the lead, and the momentum changed and we started playing like Kerri and Misty," May said.
"Kerri carried the caboose. She was the engine."
Said Walsh: "They were playing great, but it was our fault."
Youngs, who was teamed with mega-star Holly McPeak and captured the bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, now has fallen to Walsh-May 15 times in finals play without a win.
For the second consecutive event, Youngs gained the satisfaction of defeating McPeak and her new teammate, Jennifer Kessy, in Sunday’s winner’s bracket.
"I’m at the point in my career where I’ve been to a lot of finals and I expect to be there every weekend," Youngs said."I want to win one of these really badly. I thought today was our day."