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Beach Volleyball

Barry Punzal: An Appreciation of Todd Rogers

2008 beach volleyball Olympics gold medalist announced his retirement at last week's Manhattan Beach Open

He was a master at his craft, and his crafty play on the beach volleyball court made “The Professor” Todd Rogers an Olympic gold medalist, two-time Olympian, world champion,  multiple winner on the U.S. and international professional tours, and one of the all-time greats in the sport.

After more than 20 years and 80 titles world wide, Rogers, 42, announced his retirement at last Sunday’s AVP Manhattan Beach Open, the most prestigious beach volleyball tournament of them all.

Rogers has three bronze plaques on the Manhattan Beach Pier for winning the legendary tournament three consecutive times with his Olympics partner, Phil Dalhausser.

Rogers was honored in a ceremony on the stadium court, with longtime AVP Tour MC Chris “Geeter” belting out “Rogy’s” career achievements over the PA system.


The ceremony also featured a video that included comments from several of his partners over the years, from his San Marcos High School friend and teammate Dax Holdren to Dalhausser, Ryan Doherty, Theo Brunner and Stafford Slick.

I’ve been watching and writing about Rogers since his days at San Marcos High, where he won a CIF-SS championship and was named the 4A Division (the top division back then) Player of the Year in 1991 before moving on to UCSB.

As a Gaucho, he twice earned All-American honors as a setter.

Rather than heading overseas to play professionally like many indoor players after their college careers, Rogers took his game to the beach. It was one of the great decisions he made in his career. Another great one was picking up Dalhausser as a partner.

That team will go down as one of the greatest of all-time in the sport. They won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and captured tournaments all over the globe.

Through all the success and notoriety, Rogers remained a class act and a homebody. East Beach was his office.

One of the most memorable and moving moments in covering him was the 2006 AVP Santa Barbara Open.

After coming up short in four previous finals, he finally won his hometown tournament. And, when his young daughter, Hannah, came running out on the court to celebrate with him, it brought the house down.

Rogers is now watching Hannah and his son, Nate, play in tournaments.

Rogers won three Santa Barbara Opens. The second title in 2010 provided another incredible moment.

In a comeback for the ages, Rogers and Dalhausser rallied from a 14-9 deficit in the 15-point third set against John Hyden and Brad Keenan, and won 20-18.

Rogers sure knew how to get the home folks excited.

“That was really cool,” he said in an interview before the 2013 tournament. “That was definitely one of my top-10 moments in beach volleyball.”

Rogers-Dalhausser would win a third Santa Barbara Open in 2010, beating Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal in straight sets.

The influence Rogers and Dalhausser put on the game spread all over the world. When they were rolling on the international FIVB World and AVP Tours between 2007 and 2010, players from around the world booked trips to Santa Barbara to train with them at East Beach.

It was a treat for anyone at the beach on those mornings when teams from Germany, Japan, China, Canada, Australia and other places showed up to play against Rogers and Dalhausser.

And after they finished training, the players always were accommodating about having their pictures taken with the locals.

How cool is that? You’re on the beach playing volleyball on a court next to the Olympic gold medalists and then hanging out with them and some of the best players from different countries. Rogers helped bring the world to Santa Barbara.

Rogers wasn’t the tallest guy or the strongest guy, or the guy with the highest vertical leap. But there was a beauty to his game everyone could appreciate and admire.

It was about defense, ball control and shot placement — he brought a touch of finesse to the game.

His mastery of mixing shots to confound opponents was like watching a junk ball-throwing pitcher strike out big hitters. He also deflated the opposition with his tremendous defensive play — he was twice voted the world’s best defensive player and won the AVP Defensive Player Award five times.

In a story following his 2006 Santa Barbara Open title, I wrote of his shot-making ability: “It may not be spectacular but it gets results. For us hackers, the motto for his method should be: "In Todd, we trust."

The plays he made on the court against the best teams in the world are a credit to his tremendous work ethic: the countless ball-control and defensive drills and hard-core fitness work he did during the week.

Just watching him and Dalhausser push their bodies made you tired.

The way Rogers played the game has inspired and influenced many beach volleyball players.

I feel privileged to have been able to witness and write about his rise in the sport and the impact he's left on it.

Thank you, Todd.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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