The AVP CROCS Tour has many storied stops on its 16-tournament schedule, but no locations date back as far as Santa Barbara. The first professional beach volleyball tournament in Santa Barbara occurred in 1950, with this year's AVP Bud Light Santa Barbara Open marking the 50th men’s tournament on the sands of the "Pacific Riviera." And, of course, no other spot can lay claim to being the hometown of the greatest volleyball player in history -- Karch Kiraly.

In the 1950s, when the pro volleyball tour consisted of just a handful of stops, Santa Barbara was consistently one of the locations. Perhaps that laid the groundwork for Dr. Laszlo Kiraly, who taught his son how to play volleyball around the age of six, and entered beach tournaments with him by the age of 11. If Kiraly had stopped playing when he turned 21, his 20 victories would still rank 16th on the career domestic charts. Three of Kiraly’s first eight victories in his career came in Santa Barbara, and two of his last eight have happened there as well. His seven victories in his hometown have been spread out over four decades.

Locals attending AVP events in Santa Barbara have had plenty to cheer about, as 1991 marked the last year that a tournament final did not include at least one player from Santa Barbara. In addition to Kiraly, 2004 Olympian Dax Holdren and Todd Rogers both hail from there, with at least one of those two players in each of the five championship matches this century. Last year those two faced off against each other, with Holdren claiming the victory.

The prospects for this year's event having a local male player in the finals are good, as five of the top 10 seeds have either a player who is from Santa Barbara, went to school there, or currently resides there. In addition, two players who enjoyed their best career finish at the last tournament in Tempe, Ariz., Ben Koski and Jeff Minc, both hail from Santa Barbara. Both times the USA won a gold medal in beach volleyball, half of the team had ties to this city. Kiraly won the gold in 1996, while UCSB's Eric Fonoimoana duplicated that feat in 2000.

With action happening on 12 courts on West Beach, fans will be pulled in every direction in an attempt to not miss anything. But that is futile to try to catch all that it is going on. It is a big enough task to watch all the locals playing. Then add in a couple of new partnerships to examine, such as Nick Lucena and Sean Rooney, who played together for the first time in Tempe, or Jason Ring and George Roumain, who played for the 12th time together, and you'll have even more matches to watch. In Santa Barbara, those two teams will have new looks, as Lucena and Roumain have formed a new partnership, as have Ring and Rooney.

The top four male seeds all offer their own intrigue as well. Mike Lambert and Stein Metzger are the top-seeded team, as at least one of the players has been in the finals of 17 of the last 24 AVP events. Second-seeded Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal are pushing to become the top seeds, having played in both finals this year with one victory. Seeded third is the tandem of Holdren and Sean Scott, who were both involved in last year’s Santa Barbara finale. Phil Dalhausser and Rogers form the fourth-seeded team, and look to win their second straight tournament.

On the women's side, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have an incredible desire to be first. Not only do they have an insatiable yearning to win pro beach volleyball tournaments, they also long to make history by being the first team to accomplish certain goals. This weekend, the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalists will be going for their 50th tournament win as a team.

To put that amazing number into perspective, only three men's teams in the history of beach volleyball have won more than 50 times together, and there have been nearly twice as many men's events as women’s. May-Treanor and Walsh are playing in their 75th event together, meaning they have won two out of every three tournaments they played. They currently have 16 more victories than the team with the next most wins, and they are still a couple years from turning 30 years old.

May-Treanor and Walsh will also try to become the first women's team to win three consecutive titles in Santa Barbara, something that no other team has been able to accomplish despite the city hosting women's events on and off since 1953.

May-Treanor and Walsh will also be attempting to win the first AVP event on FOX TV. This tournament marks one of six network events, with the Sacramento Open next month also appearing on FOX. The finals for the women will be on Saturday, May 20.

The second-seeded team of Rachel Wacholder and Elaine Youngs won three events last season and pose a definite threat to the dynamic duo. Wacholder and Youngs have shown remarkable consistency in their short time together, having formed their partnership to start the 2005 season. They have played in 15 AVP events together, reaching the semifinals each time. In addition to their three wins, they have been in the finals of five other tournaments and have finished third seven times. Each of their AVP tournaments has ended playing the same team -- May-Treanor and Walsh.

The history of the Santa Barbara event gives hope to the other 80 female teams competing. The 2001 tournament marked the last time a women's team other than the top two seeds won an AVP title. That year it was the seventh-seeded duo of Dianne DeNecochea and Liz Masakayan, winning their first and last career titles, respectively. To achieve their win, DeNecochea and Masakayan had to bounce back from a third-round loss to win five straight matches. To top it all off, they were playing together for the first time ever. This weekend, teams can point to 2001 as how the AVP CROCS Tour would look by changing the status quo.

Jennifer Boss and Nancy Mason form another team that has shown consistency in their domestic history. Joining forces at the start of this year, they have played in both finals this season, despite losing their second match of both tournaments. The result is they have had to play five more matches than anyone else on the Tour. Boss and Mason were among five AVP teams that played last weekend in the season-opening FIVB tournament in Italy. The combined schedule of the two tours means "a weekend off" is not in any of the top players' vocabularies.

The only team among the top five seeds that did not travel overseas to play was the duo of Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan. Back from a year off after each having their second child, Davis and Johnson Jordan have yet to face the top seeds this season, but are probably looking forward to it. In their last five meetings with May-Treanor and Walsh, they have won twice and forced a deciding game in two of their losses. This season Davis and Johnson Jordan have beaten every team they have lined up against except one -- in both tournaments they have been eliminated by Boss and Mason in the semifinals.

The AVP is including a stop in Santa Barbara for the fifth time in the last six years, and two players have been fixtures in the semifinal matches. Holly McPeak, the all-time wins leader with 72 titles, has been in the Final Four each time in that span, as has Youngs. McPeak and Youngs were teammates in the 2004 Olympics, winning a bronze medal on the beach.

In addition, for the second straight event, the AVP CROCS Tour will feature the professional beach volleyball debut of a 2004 indoor Olympian. Two-time Olympian Logan Tom had her inaugural beach tournament in Tempe, Ariz., while this week her former teammate Lindsey Berg will take to the sand for the first time.

Berg, along with partner Laura Greene, will be attempting to claw their way through the qualifier in order to get their chance at pulling off some upsets. Berg also has the additional motivation of performing well this weekend, as she is playing "at home," since she resides in Santa Barbara part of the year.

Other former UCSB players competing include Brooke Niles Hanson, who is playing with Sarah Straton, and Courtney Guerra, whose partner is Janelle Koester.

The first AVP event on FOX TV gives May-Treanor and Walsh yet another goal to shoot for, but Olympians and home-town favorites are but a few of the obstacles that stand in their way.

For the first time this season, the main draw tournament will take place over three days as opposed to two. The format means that teams that proceed through the winner's bracket will only have to play two matches a day, giving them an edge over teams who have to play a more rigorous schedule in the contender's bracket. The last three championships in Santa Barbara have featured two undefeated teams, and this format favors those who can avoid an early loss.

AVP Annals

* The combined 78 events (50 men's and 28 women's) mark the second-most that any one city has hosted, behind Manhattan Beach's 83 combined tourneys. Gene Selznick won eight times here, as did Sinjin Smith. Karch Kiraly has chalked up seven victories in his home city, one of eight current AVP players who have won here. In 49 previous tournaments, there have been 44 different players who have won.

* This is the only site in which Misty May-Treanor and her late mother, Barbara May, both won titles, as Misty won the last two seasons and Barbara won her first title in 1973. Santa Barbara offers all teams a shot at the title -- in the 27 years there has been a women's pro beach tournament here, 40 different teams have played in the finals, with 19 unique teams winning.